A foster family is a temporary family for a child who cannot remain with his or her own family. The supportive, trauma-aware atmosphere of the foster home assists the child in developing healthy self-image and offers a positive model on which he or she can pattern values and behaviour.
Our foster care program is based on the belief that children benefit most from being raised within a family and a community. The overall goal of the program is to return the child to his or her own family as soon as it is safe to do so. Where this is not feasible, we make other long-term plans for the child. These may include placement with a relative, private guardianship, adoption, or independent living.
In support of these goals, we aim to do the following:
Currently, Children First has a number of foster homes in and around Edmonton, Leduc, Sherwood Park, Spruce Grove, Devon, Beaumont, Red Deer, and Rocky Mountain House.
A caseworker from the regional Child and Family Services Authority can become involved with a family under either of the following circumstances:
After meeting with the family and assessing the child’s and family’s needs, the child protection worker makes recommendations about further involvement with the family. The child is removed from the family only when all reasonable attempts to protect and meet the child’s needs within the community have been exhausted.
The first step in matching a child or youth with a foster home is to decide what he or she needs. We then match those needs with the strengths and preferences of the foster family. Before a child is placed in a home, the foster family is given information about the child to help them determine whether the placement fits with the family and the skill level of the foster parent(s). The foster family then decides whether or not they are prepared to accept the placement.
A primary goal of fostering is to provide children with alternative family care until they can return to their natural family, another family setting, or an independent living situation. One of the responsibilities of a foster family is to support and encourage contact between the natural family and the child, whenever it is safe for the child. Foster parents’ involvement with the natural family is sometimes necessary to prepare the child for his or her return home and to keep the child and family connected. Foster parents may work with the natural parents on matters that affect the child.
When a child or youth from a different cultural background is placed in a home, it is important for the foster parent(s) and the child’s social worker to discuss any special needs related to his or her heritage. Children First offers foster families a course on Aboriginal awareness to help support the child’s need to explore cultural values and ethnic attitudes. If a child is a member of a band or Metis settlement, decisions regarding the child are made in consultation with the band or settlement. The child’s social worker is responsible for coordinating this communication.
It is important that foster families respect and protect each child’s right to confidentiality. Agencies, social workers, and foster parents are all bound by the Family Enhancement Act in sharing information with others. Foster families can share information with other professionals assisting in a child’s care, such as Children First staff, a doctor, or a psychologist. All foster parents must sign an oath of confidentiality.
Foster parents’ observations are invaluable in determining the plan of care for a child. Because this information is so important, all foster parents receive an orientation in record keeping. Children First provides all the paperwork that must completed and returned to the office monthly. This is legal documentation that can be used in court. Also, effective documentation is your best defence against false allegations.
A service plan details goals, tasks, roles, and expectations relating to a foster placement. It specifies the supports and actions required to allow a child to return to his or her family or be placed in an alternative arrangement. A clear plan can help reduce the child’s anxiety and uncertainty about what will happen to him or her while in foster care. Developing and completing service plans is the responsibility of the child’s social worker and the foster family’s support worker.
A case conference is an informal or formal meeting that brings together the foster parent(s) and other individuals who have information to share about a child in care. The purpose of the meeting is to give all involved an opportunity to contribute to planning for the child. Foster parents’ opinions and observations are welcome and essential in helping to broaden everyone’s understanding of the child. Case conferences are often held during the day when possible, but social workers are usually willing to work with foster parents to reach a mutually convenient time.
Edmonton’s Child and Family Services Authority (Region 6) exists to protect and promote the social well-being of children in crisis. It does so by developing and administering statutory and mandated child and family service programs. Child Protection Services exists to ensure that the survival, security, and development of children are protected. Its responsibilities include child protection, foster care, adoptions, group homes, and other areas involving children and families.
The Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act is the legal authority for providing child protection services in Alberta. Its principles guide child protection workers in their work with families. The act stresses the importance of family and the use of the least intrusive measures to protect the child. It also specifies the circumstances under which a child may be in need of protection. The goals of the Children First program reflect the philosophy of this act.