Foster parenting can last for one night or several years. It can end with the satisfaction of helping in a time of need, to the pleasure of seeing a family reunited, to the adoption of a foster child and the happiness of a life-long relationship with foster children, adopted or not.
Foster care placements, the selection of foster parents and adoptions are done by the Ministry of Children and Families. The Okanagan Foster Parents Association is there to help with additional information and support.
“We provide training and support and help with the recruitment of new foster parents, which are always needed,” said Noelle Typusiak, foster parent coordinator for the North Okanagan. She and her husband were foster parents for more than 20 years.
“Our first foster child was a teen who has now turned 50. It’s a long time and it’s good that we have been able to keep in touch,” said Typusiak, who has a background in psychiatric nursing.
Lisa Kongsdorf, Independent Living Vernon support worker/employment manager, is a foster parent with a background in social work. However, foster parents do not need a formal background. What is more important is a commitment to learn and to do what is best for the child and family involved.
Foster parents can be couples or singles of any age, working or retired, with or without children in their homes, and can choose the age of the child they want to welcome to their homes and how long they want to have a foster child.
“Some people like babies, others might feel they can help best with a teen and some will take sibling groups or children with special needs,” said Typusiak.
Kongsdorf started fostering as a single parent with two of her three children at home.
“I like kids and I feel honoured that I can help support these kids and their parents. It’s amazing,” she said. “I asked the permission of my kids when I first started fostering and they have become friends with many of the foster kids and we keep in touch with them when they are not living with us anymore.
“We are helping them with the skills they need for their situations and for when they become independent when they are 19 and no longer in care. I keep my door open to them.”
Typusiak said foster parenting can be challenging but it is rewarding.
“People foster because they care about kids and want to help kids and families,” she said. “I know the importance of the community in caring for children because my mother had rheumatoid arthritis and lots of people helped my parents to raise me.
“The parents of children in foster care really appreciate that their children are being well looked after when they are having difficulties. The goal is always to reunite families but that is not always possible. There are children in Vernon waiting for adoption now.”
Kongsdorf said that children may go back to extended family members but the goal is always what will be the best outcome for the child.
“Sometimes children may think they are bad and that what is happening is somehow a punishment. No child is bad, even in bad circumstances, and we help to realize that it is not their fault and they can go on to develop all their good qualities and to stay connected with their families even if that is not going back to live with them.”
The Okanagan Foster Parents Association provides initial and ongoing training, including support groups, for foster parents and is available to answer questions and provide help. There is always a need for more foster parents in the area. For more information, contact Typusiak at 250-558-0939 or NOKsupport@okfosterparents.ca or see www.okfosterparents.ca.