SUMMERSIDE – For Wendy Poirier and her husband, Glen, being foster parents is an interim job.
“It’s only until families could get back on track. We’ve always opened our home and when we heard there was a need, we made the decision to become foster parents.”
They have been fostering for four years. In that time, Poirier has seen 10 children enter her home.
She and her husband, Charlottetown residents, were an associate family for 19 years for Islanders living with special needs. Since becoming foster parents, she says fostering has also impacted her own children.
“They’ve all gone into support fields. One works in human services, one is a care worker and the other is in university studying the support area. It’s become a part of who we are and a big part of our lives.”
Poirier says being a foster parent has a lot of complexity.
“You could be working with a series of three to four people a week. Sometimes you have multiple check-ins each day and you wear a lot of hats outside of what a regular parent may do. There is a lot of training. It is extensive.”
Recently, Poirier took on another role – president of P.E.I. Federation of Foster Families.
“I went to my first annual general meeting a few years ago after we became foster parents. I wanted to know more about the system, I wanted to be able to voice concerns if I had them.”
Foster parents also meet once a month in meetings called “clusters” to discuss best practices and it’s an opportunity for fellowship.
“Everyone has to participate in a minimum amount of meeting and training hours. And we’re all required to attend the annual meetings in the fall and spring.
“Every quarter a board from the federation meets with government members to talk over areas that need to be improved or new things we can use.”
Foster parents also undergo annual contract meetings to determine what level foster home they have.
“We undergo an assessment yearly which dictates which of the three levels a home may be. The levels are made up of different forms of care, including respite homes that may take a child for a weekend or a short period of time.”
Poirier says she has seen how the foster care system has changed over the years, which is why she is looking forward to the review process that will start in the coming months.
“I think it’s been about 20 years since the last complete review of the foster care system. And as a foster parent, I feel valued being a part of this. There is a real commitment to providing the best care for the children.”
It’s timely, she added.
“The demographics are changing along with the needs and demands. We as a federation want the review because we hear from foster parents directly about their experiences. Fostering is a work in progress.”
The best experience is seeing the children prosper, she said.
“Seeing them grow, do well and be happy with their family is the best thing. It’s the reason why people become foster parents, because the ultimate goal is to see the kids go home.”
An important part of the foster care system is the support resources that are available to parents.
“We are assigned to a resource social worker. They work with child protection. They are there to provide guidance and support day-to-day. When a child comes into care, we always try to make sure there is as little disruption as possible. There is a real collaborative approach to fostering, it’s been an incredible experience.”
To learn more about foster parenting, go to www.beafosterparent.ca.