The Hay River area is in urgent need of foster care parents and the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority is making a special effort this summer to get the word out.
Kassandra Spencer, foster care coordinator with the HRHSSA manages the placement for children that come into care.
The health authority provides child and family services for the Town of Hay River as well as Enterprise, K’atl’odeechee First Nation.
Between the three communities there is a shortage with seven foster homes. Spencer said she would like to see two to four homes established this year to meet current levels of demand.
“We are experiencing an urgent need for foster parents,” she said.
“Right now we are at a lower number than we would like. I’ve been at the Hay River office for five years now and this is the lowest number we have had in the last five years.”
Spencer said that her office has been in the process of raising awareness including with a Canada Post mail out in May and is continuing with communications like brochures, information pop-up booths and media outreach to spread the word.
She said there is often a misconception as to what the requirements are for foster parents, which could be inhibiting people from being involved.
“Sometimes there is a misunderstanding of the commitment of foster parents that if you do sign up that you will be placed with a child permanently or over a long-term period,” she said. “That might be the case and we have need for those placements. However, there is also a need for short-term or respite-type situations where a child might be placed in a home for a weekend or up to a week or two.
“So we’re trying to provide that information too where signing up doesn’t mean full time or long term commitments and that there is a need for emergency issues as well.”
Four of the seven homes are known as “regular foster homes” where any child that comes into need can be placed after experiencing a breakdown of their current residence. Another two are “extended family” homes which is a place where at the approval of a parent, a child can stay at the home of an extended family member. The other one is a provisional home, which is a type of home which is specifically identified for a specific child, such as in the case that a friend of the family might make a request.
When the health authority isn’t able to maintain a stable number of foster homes, Spencer said it can lead to additional challenging that her office is currently experiencing. Among them include sibling group separation, foster homes operating above capacity, an increase in placement changes and breakdowns of sibling groups or a foster placement.
Spencer said that parents who are interested in getting information about the program should get in contact with her directly by phone at 874-8430 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Her office also has an information flier that is being distributed and potential parents can also walk into the HRHSSA office at the H.H. Williams Memorial Hospital at 3 Gaetz Dr.
The office is open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Staff on site can assist to see if potential parents are a good fit and to assist through the application process. A child and family service and criminal record check take place to ensure that the applicant meets eligibility.