The re­wards are many, say fos­ter par­ents

Prov­ince marks Fos­ter Fam­i­lies Week from Oct. 21-27

The Compass - - ORTHTE - BYDANETTEDOOLEY SPE­CIAL TO TC • ME­DIA

When talk­ing about her role as a fos­ter par­ent, Lynn Eddy fo­cuses on what she’s got­ten from the ex­pe­ri­ence over the past 19 years rather than the love and nur­tur­ing she’s given to the chil­dren she’s cared for.

Mother’s Day is al­ways a sen­si­tive day for a child in care, the Shoal Har­bour woman says, re­call­ing how a five-year-old boy got up early on Mother’s Day and made her a sand­wich smoth­ered in Cheese Whiz.

He’d only been with her fam­ily a short time, she says, and had no idea she hated Cheese Whiz. But, as they say, it’s the thought that counts. “I hugged him and kissed him and cud­dled him on my bed while I ate the whole thing. I al­ways have Cheese Whiz in my house now,” says the 44-year-old.

A beam­ing face

Feb. 14 is also a spe­cial oc­ca­sion for young and old alike — a day to ac­knowl­edge feel­ings to­wards loved ones.

“A child took his al­lowance and bought me these ear­rings for Valen­tine’s Day. He was seven and I thought he was buy­ing them for a lit­tle girl. He had spent all his al­lowance on these very long ear­rings that had about 20 plas­tic stars on them and I can still see his face beam­ing when he told me ‘And guess what? They glow in the dark!’”

Lynn says the ear­rings re­main among her most trea­sured pos­ses­sions.

Lynn was also ec­static a cou­ple of years ago when she got a call that a new­born was in need of care. It was the sec­ond time she and her hus­band, Rick, wel­comed an in­fant into their home.

Lynn also re­calls the child who quickly be­came com­fort­able in his new home but couldn’t find his voice, at first, to tell her how he felt.

“He wanted to tell me that he loved me but didn’t know how. So he used to write it on sticky-notes and post them in our home.”

Lov­ing an­other child

Lynn says be­com­ing a fos­ter par­ent al­most two decades ago is one of the best de­ci­sions she’s ever made. She al­ways dreamed of hav­ing a large fam­ily, but that was not to be.

Af­ter her only child was three years-old, and know­ing she could not have any more chil­dren, Lynn and her hus­band de­cided to look into adoption. The so­cial worker asked the young cou­ple, who were liv­ing in North Har­bour at the time, if they’d ever con­sid­ered fos­ter­ing. A week later the Ed­dys re­ceived a call about a 15-year-old girl in need of care.

They wel­comed the teen into their home where she stayed for over five years.

“You have to ask your­self, ‘ Can you love an­other child the way you love your own?’ And I was only 25 when she came to us. And it didn’t make any dif­fer­ence if she was 15 or one. I knew right from the be­gin­ning that it made no dif­fer­ence, that I could love an­other child as I loved my own.”

Just months af­ter leav­ing their home, the young woman was trag­i­cally killed in an ac­ci­dent.

Over the years, the Ed­dys have cared for about 20 chil­dren. Rick says fos­ter­ing is re­ward­ing as well as chal­leng­ing. “Peo­ple need to get in­volved know­ing that any time a fam­ily group expands, there are go­ing to be chal­lenges. And when you do the cour­ses you need to take (to be­come a fos­ter par­ent), you’re go­ing into it with your eyes open and you’ll know what to ex­pect,” he says.

Train­ing of­fered

Lynn has some ad­vice for other fos­ter par­ents and those who are think­ing about bring­ing chil­dren into their homes: stay in­formed, be­come ac­tive in your community in the ac­tiv­i­ties the chil­dren are in­volved with and take what­ever train­ing is of­fered.

De­vel­op­ing re­la­tion­ships be­tween fos­ter par­ents and the child’s bi­o­log­i­cal par­ents is cru­cial, she says, as re­turn­ing the child to the bi­o­log­i­cal par­ents is al­ways the No. 1 goal of fos­ter­ing.

Oct. 21-27 is Fos­ter Fam­i­lies Week

Diane Mol­loy, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the New­found­land and Labrador Fos­ter Fam­i­lies As­so­ci­a­tion, says there are ap­prox­i­mately 775 chil­dren in care in this prov­ince. That’s the high­est it’s been in awhile, she says, and a high per­cent­age of these chil­dren are un­der age 12.

There are cur­rently about 560 fos­ter homes in this prov­ince. Many of these homes have been set up to care for a par­tic­u­lar child. Some homes are for respite only.

When a fos­ter home is not avail­able, she says, chil­dren are cared for in apart­ment set­tings.

Be­cause of the lack of homes, chil­dren are also be­ing up­rooted from not only their fam­i­lies but also their friends, she says, when they have to be moved to an­other community.

Of­ten­times, she adds, it’s not pos­si­ble to keep sib­lings to­gether.

Fos­ter­ing is a team ef­fort, Mol­loy says. It’s all about fam­i­lies help­ing fam­i­lies.

New in­vest­ment

A new con­tin­uum of care strat­egy an­nounced in Bud­get 2012 fo­cuses on re­cruit­ing and re­tain­ing fos­ter fam­i­lies. It comes with a price tag of $18.4 mil­lion over the next two years. Mol­loy is op­ti­mistic that the new sys­tem will lead to more fos­ter homes.

“If we had 100 new ( fos­ter) homes to­day that would go a long way in tak­ing care of the chil­dren that are not in fos­ter homes,” she says.

Mean­while, Lynn says she’d en­cour­age in­di­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies to look into be­com­ing fos­ter par­ents.

“If you know the need is there and you can do it, how can you not?”

On the web: http://www.nlffa.ca/

danette@nl.rogers.com

Photo by Danette Doo­ley/spe­cial to TC• Me­dia

New­found­land and Labrador Fos­ter Fam­i­lies As­so­ci­a­tion so­cial worker Amy Ken­dall-Ful­ford (left) and the as­so­ci­a­tion’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, Diane Mol­loy, pick the win­ners of this year’s draw­ing con­test. The as­so­ci­a­tion of­fers draw­ing and writ­ing con­tests in schools throughout the prov­ince each year to cel­e­brate Fos­ter Fam­i­lies Week.

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