1. Who exactly are the children who come into foster care?
In Alberta there are over 3000 children in approximately 1,800 foster homes. Children under the age of 18 who are unable to live with their families, and who have no other alternatives (relatives, close family friends, etc.) are placed in foster care.
Once placed, a child’s government caseworker immediately begins to work towards a permanency plan for the child. This might include working with the family to get them strong and stable, or it might mean looking for relatives willing and able to take the child into their home.
While the caseworker works on a permanency plan, the foster parents, with the help of Crossroads, get to know the child, settle the child in school or pre-school, ensure regular medical, dental and optical check-ups, and identify and address any issues they might have.
Foster care is meant to be temporary. Foster parents work with caseworkers to keep children connected to their natural families, whether the plan is for them to return home or not. The goal of Service Teams is to prepare children to have a successful move to a permanent home. However, sometimes a child will become a permanent ward, in which case the caseworker will look for an adoptive home. The foster home where the child has been placed may be considered for adoption of that child, but not always.
2. Does Crossroads set the rules for fostering?
In order to be contracted to provide foster care for Alberta Child and Family Services, Crossroads provides services in accordance with the following standards.
• Canadian Accreditation Council of Human Services
• Alberta’s Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act
• Code of Ethics – Alberta College of Social Workers
• Code of Ethics – Alberta Foster Parent Association
• Alberta Labor Standards where applicable
3. Do foster families require two parents?
Foster families are made up two parents, one parent, we’ve had mother-daughter teams as well
4. What qualifications must foster parents meet?
Foster parents are required to provide the following before beginning the application process.
- Applicants must be twenty-one (21) years of age or older
- Resident of Alberta, Canadian Citizen, Landed Immigrant, or have Permanent Residency Status for the past five (5) years
- Satisfactory Intervention (Child Welfare) Record Check
- Police Criminal Record Check, including a Vulnerable Sector Check
- 3 positive references, including work, long-time friends, close relative
- Your family must be stable, and not have experienced any major changes or crises in the past year. (i.e. new marriage, death, illness, etc.)
- Couples co-habiting must have been in a stable relationship for the past five (5) years.
- Physical health check
- Have a stable source of income (a financial statement as to income and expenses will be required)
- Willing to work with a child’s natural family
- Willing to incorporate aspects of a child’s cultural background into the family routine and activities (i.e. Aboriginal, African, etc.)
- Willing to parent according to the terms set out by the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act (including no capital punishment, approved behavior management methods, following caseworker and agency service plan, etc.)
5. Can foster parents work outside the home?
Families can foster school-aged children if both parents work. In some families, one parent works days, the other nights. Some are stay-at-home parents, some are retired, and some work from home.
6. Do I need to be able to drive and have a car to foster?
While it isn’t required, it makes fostering much easier. Foster children need to be taken to medical appointments, specialist and therapy appointments, visits with their family and siblings, etc. Foster parents may claim mileage for child-related transportation that is outside the normal day-to-day trips a parent would normally make for their own child.
7. Are there requirements our home has to meet?
Yes. Foster homes must pass a Safety Checklist. Requirements include such things as locking away toxic and poisonous substances, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, everything in good repair (railings, windows, screens, etc.), weapons locked away, bedroom windows of the required size, and much more.
Each foster child must have their own space where they know they and their things are safe: their own bed, dresser, space for their toys or possessions, and decorations for their area. Children can room-share if the child’s caseworker is in agreement.
It’s also important that there is adequate space in the rest of the home: room at the dining table, enough comfy chairs for everyone to watch TV, and a safe place to play indoors and outdoors.
Crossroads helps families to prepare their homes for licensing. Once everything is ready, a government licensing officer will come and do a final run through. When all the requirements have been met, the home will be licensed. The license will state how many children the family can foster. Once the license arrives, the family can begin fostering.
8. Do I have a choice in what child we foster?
Absolutely. Foster parents state what age range and what gender of a child they feel they can best provide care for. Often, this will be based on the age and gender of their own children, and the foster family’s lifestyle.
9. Does Crossroads match children to the foster family?
Always. During the application process a Home Study will be completed on the applicant family. From this we’ll know where a family’s strengths are, and what kind of child would be best suited to it’s home. Our goal is to ensure every placement is positive for both the child and the foster family. Crossroads will only call you if a child fits the criteria you have stated is the best fit for your family. If you want to care for preschoolers, for instance, we won’t contact you when a teen is in need of a home. Before a child is placed, Crossroads will tell you everything we know about the child, and discuss with you how this child might fit into your home. The final decision always rests with the foster family.
10. How many children can I foster?
Foster parents can begin with up to two children. Those with training at a higher skill level may foster up to four children. Sometimes there are siblings in need of a home. Children’s Services works hard to find foster families who can keep siblings together.
11. Is there any outside help, once a child is placed in my foster home?
Foster parents are part of a team. They are never alone in this very important, often stressful job. Crossroads provides each family with a knowledgeable, experienced Foster Care Support Worker (FCSW). This individual is in contact with the foster parent by phone and email, and visits the foster home at least every two months. A new foster family, or a family with a new placement, may expect more frequent visits as necessary.
FCSWs work with a Manager, who works with a Director. These individuals oversee any issues that might occur, and are there to provide support, assist in communication with caseworkers, and more.
12. What supports does Crossroads offer to their foster families?
Foster parents receive:
- An assigned Support Worker, with senior Crossroads managers on call
- Regular visits and ongoing phone and email contact with your Support Worker
- On-Call support 24 hours a day
- Financial compensation
- Respite care
- Initial placement supports
- Crisis intervention
- Agency FOG Training: Fostering Orientation Group
- Support Group meetings, with child care
- Support during investigations and training on allegation prevention
13. Are there cultural considerations I need to be aware of?
Absolutely. Research and evidence very strongly indicate that children need to remain well connected with their culture. This is often different from the foster family’s culture, in which case Crossroads will help the foster family to incorporate the child’s culture into their home and help connect them with cultural supports.
Many children in foster care in Alberta are Indigenous. In addition to Indigenous Awareness training, Crossroads helps families learn how to bring aspects of the Indigenous culture into their home. This might include artwork, cooking, videos, storybooks, and Indigenous practices such as smudging. Crossroads keeps foster families informed as to Indigenous events going on in the area, so the whole family can take part. If the child is registered with a band or Metis settlement, foster parents will be asked to arrange visits with the band.
14. Am I fully responsible for everything to do with the foster child?
No. Foster Parents are part of a team, known as the child’s Service Team. This includes the caseworker, foster parent, the child (especially if they’re 12 or older), a Crossroads Support Worker, and could include the bio-parent, teacher, therapist, doctor, and anyone else working to help move the child to a permanent family situation. The Service Team meets minimally every three months to first create and then update an individualized Service Plan for the child. This is the guide to ensure all those involved are working towards the same goals for the child.
Each child in foster care has a caseworker assigned by Child & Family Services. The caseworker is the child’s legal guardian and is responsible for making all decisions regarding the child. Most importantly, the caseworker’s job is to work to get each child either back to their family, to relatives, or to some other permanent living situation such as adoption.
If a child is registered with an Aboriginal Band or Metis settlement, decisions regarding the child will be made in consultation with the band or settlement. The caseworker is responsible for coordinating this communication.
In some cases, children may be in care, but still under the guardianship of their bio-parent. A child’s caseworker is then responsible to coordinate with the parent to gain approval for those aspects of care that are outside the foster parent’s responsibility.
15. Is there any training available?
Training is not just available, it’s a requirement. Children who come into care have suffered the trauma of being separated from their families, as well as other possible trauma as well. Foster parent applicants attend Orientation to Caregivers before they make the commitment to follow through with the application process. Foster parents must have their First Aid certification before taking children. Once a foster home is opened, foster parents (anyone who is actively managing the activities and behaviors of a foster child) must take ongoing courses provided through Alberta Child and Family Services.
16. What topics do the training courses cover?
- Indigenous Awareness
- Cultural Diversity
- Creating Cultural Connections
- Suicide Awareness
- Self-Harm Awareness
- The Child, Youth, and Family Enhancement Act
- How to Observe, Report and Record
- Addressing Allegations
- Supporting Youth in Transition
- Childhood Development
- Accepted Methods of Behavior Management
- Effect of Abuse & Neglect on Brain Development
- Managing Attachment Issues
- Working with ADD, ADHD, FASD, and other diagnoses
- Sexual Abuse
- Working with the Biological Family
- And more….
17. What if I need a break?
Foster parent compensation includes enough to pay for 2 days (1 weekend) a month of respite (overnight care) for each child in their care. Crossroads will help families find an appropriate respite placement for a child, so the foster parents can take a break.
18. Do Foster Parents get paid?
Yes. Foster parents receive:
- Foster Parent Stipend – This non-taxable amount is based on the skill level of the foster parent and is paid monthly for each night a child is in their home.
- Basic Maintenance – This amount is based on the age of the child and their level category. This covers food, clothing, allowances, and general transportation.
- Recreation and Vacation Fund – Each child is allotted a specific amount to be used for recreation (swimming lessons, dance, sports, etc.), and vacation (summer camp, traveling with their foster family, etc.)
- Specialized Supports – Sometimes a foster family will receive additional funding for specific requirements such as additional respite care, to maintain the placement. Additional funding also is available for those families who take in an infant to cover such things as diapers and formula.
19. Do foster parents always earn enough money so they don’t have to work outside the home?
No. There is no guarantee that a foster home will always have placements. Because children must be matched appropriately to a foster family, they could go a few weeks without a placement. They might get a placement that only lasts a few days.
Foster families must be financially stable and living within their current means without counting on the basic maintenance fee as part of their regular income.
20. Is there paperwork?
Yes! Paperwork is a critical aspect of fostering. Documentation serves to track how a child is doing. It also provides evidence of the care the child is receiving, of the behaviors a child might be presenting, and how much help and support the foster family may need in caring for the child.