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Foster families in short supply

Emily Ridlington
Northern News Services
Published Monday, February 14, 2011


The Department of Health and Social Services has launched an advertising campaign looking for foster families as they are in low supply.

"The need is just enormous right now and we're incredibly short of foster families," said Susan Breddam, adult services specialist with the department.

In attempts to help find more foster families, the department is using $89,000 from Health Canada through the Territorial Health System Sustainability Initiative to produce a mass marketing campaign.

From the end of January until the end of March, there will be advertisements in local newspapers and public service announcements on community radio stations.

There were 28 children in foster care territory-wide as of the week of Jan. 21. The department would not disclose the number of foster homes in Nunavut.

Breddam said there is a need for foster parents in all communities but she highlighted Iqaluit as having the highest demand.

"Some of the social issues associated with child protection I think are more common here in the city and some of the larger hamlets (Rankin and Cambridge Bay)," Breddam said, citing poverty, addictions and family violence as examples.

James Bentley, the area supervisor for social programs for south Baffin at the department's office in Pangnirtung, oversees finding placements for children from birth to 19 years of age for the communities of Hall Beach, Qikiqtarjuaq, Pangnirtung, Cape Dorset and Kimmirut.

"We are primarily in need for homes for children under the age of five," he said.

As of Jan. 31, there were 19 children in foster care in Pangnirtung, 13 in Kimmirut, seven in Hall Beach and three in Qikiqtarjuaq. The same information for Cape Dorset was not available as that community provides social services via a contract with the department. Their staff is hired by the hamlet.

Usually, Bentley is responsible for recruitment of foster families in the communities and he said it is done by either word of mouth or by sending the message out over the radio.

Across the territory, priority is given to placing children with members of their extended family before efforts are made to find them a foster family.

"The idea is to match the needs of the child with the skills of the foster parent but that's difficult when you don't have enough foster homes to meet the need anyway," Breddam said.

When a child is in need of protection and there are no family members or foster families to take them in, she said the department usually is able to make some kind of arrangement.

Foster families get a per diem to cover the costs associated with looking after a child. They are calculated by community and range from $43 a day in Iqaluit, $45 in Qikiqtarjuaq, $47 in Arctic Bay and $50 in Grise Fiord.

Breddam said if a child has special needs the social worker can apply for a special per diem of up to $100 per day. Bentley said sometimes this is not enough and additional funding could be provided.

The department is also going to use a portion of the funding to start developing regional and territorial foster family associations running outside of the government.

"I'd like to see the organizations provide ongoing support and training for foster parents," he said.

Currently in Pangnirtung, there are foster family meetings two to three times a year with some resources available for training. In 2010, Kimmirut had a family picnic while Qikiqtarjuaq and Hall Beach held open houses giving families the chance to share information and provide support to each other.

Bentley said the associations would also serve as an advocacy tool for foster parents to allow them to provide "continuous quality improvements and care for their children."

The goal is to have these associations up and running by March 31, 2012.

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