Nunavut’s Department of Child and Family Services is putting a public call out for foster homes, in anticipation of future need.

The department currently has 45 foster homes and will need more homes available for new or repeat cases, said Yvonne Niego, deputy minister of the Department of Family Services.

Asked how the call out for families will adhere to the department’s policy of keeping Inuit children in culturally relevant homes, Niego said the department is focused on “being more culturally appropriate.”

“We want to increase our Inuit foster home numbers. We want to do our work better and for the children.”

In previous years, the department has always made a call for foster homes but is appealing through media for the first time, she said.

“This year we wanted to cast a wider net and inform families of what it would be like to host a child,” said Niego.

The department is making the call because where a child is placed varies on a case-by-case basis and based on specific needs of a child, said Niego.

In total, there are 450 children in care, with 250 in foster homes across the territory. The department has enough homes to foster those children.

“It’s more preemptive. If we don’t have a home and we have an apprehension, a social worker will stay with the child until a home is found,” she said.

The department is “always in need of good foster homes” and recognizes that going through the on boarding process takes time.“

We want to inform the general public the difference you can make in a child’s life in extended family, even through extended family relationships there is a possibility to become a foster parent,” she said.

“We need culturally relevant and Inuit specific homes for Inuit children. Keeping children as close to home as possible is our overall department policy,” she said.

The department “works closely” with families to put more children in their parental home on plans of care, said Niego.

Of all the children in care, just over 50 percent are placed in Nunavut homes. Roughly 20 per cent are in their parental homes where family services is working with the family to support them, said Niego.

In total, 70 children apprehended from within the territory are in residential out-of-territory care, where they get access to services for complex medical or behavioural needs that can’t be met by services in Nunavut, she said.

“Although we have a foster homes for the current children in foster care, still we need more foster homes available for when new cases or repeat cases come up,” said Niego.

In previous years, the department hasn’t put out a public service announcement in the media but always does an annual call out for foster families.

“It’s the first time we’ve done it this way. We recognize the need with a growing population to keep up with our foster care availability,” said Niego.

There is an application process with a criminal record check and a home inspection to ensure a family is capable of housing a child.

“We want to make sure the child has an appropriate place to sleep, we check references and then once the application is made there is a home study,” said Niego.

Foster parents are compensated between $43 and $50 per day for their service, depending on the community they are based in, said Niego.

People who are interested in becoming a foster parent can contact their local community social workers, Niego.

“Becoming a foster family it’s about making a difference in the life of a child. It’s to help children and families in your community when they need that help the most,” she said.

Some children are temporarily in care while others are there long term.

Single-parent homes are eligible to apply, though the department is ideally looking for two parent homes with one parent at home who can provide fully for the child, she said.

Children are often coming from homes where there is “some sort of agitation in the family and they need that respite … and some time for the family to recover,” she said.

Any foster family should be able to support “healthy relationships between children and their family and be part of a team to nurture a child,” she said.

Fostering a child is intended to “bring a family to recovery and meet that child’s developmental needs,” she said.

The department recognizes that overcrowding is a problem in Nunavut and is exploring equipment and training initiatives for foster parents in the coming months, said Niego.

Avery Zingel

Avery Zingel is a reporter and photographer in Yellowknife, regularly covering environment, health and territorial politics. Avery is a graduate of the Carleton University School of Journalism and Political...

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