Not all children grow up in safe, stable environments. In fact, in Ontario in 2013 there were 125,281 investigations of child maltreatment. The causes are varied and can include everything from a family illness to family challenges and crisis situations. Of those cases that were substantiated, 24% were due to neglect, 13% to emotional maltreatment, 13% to physical abuse, 2% to sexual abuse and 48% to exposure to intimate partner violence.
Regardless of the cause the safety and wellbeing of these children is threatened and while it is optimal for them to remain with their birth families, all too often counseling and outside support are not enough and alternative care is needed. That’s when child welfare agencies get involved; and, when the children cannot be placed within the internal child welfare system, resource-intensive treatment foster care providers, like Maple Star are called in.
Treatment foster care is a beneficial and cost-effective alternative to group homes and residential care facilities — particularly because it places children, who range in age from infants to 16 years old, in a stable family environment.
Foster care is not to be confused with a kinship placement (family member, friends or even someone from the community), or adoption. Sometimes it’s a matter of removing the child for a very short period of time, a week or less but generally it’s for at least six months to a year. The goal is to protect and care for these children and give them a high level of support until it is safe for them to return home, get adopted or live on their own.
Much like foster children, foster parents are a diverse group. They represent a variety of cultures, ethnicities and sexual orientations. They have different backgrounds and come from, and live in, different communities and neighbourhoods.
What they share is a willingness and ability to be part of team — which includes social workers, child and youth workers and tutors — all dedicated to help meet the needs of the children and youth in their care.