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Local foster families to be honoured for service

by Meagan Leonard

GRAND VALLEY - In honour of national foster family week, Family and Children’s Services of Guelph and Wellington County hosts an annual appreciation dinner to recognize foster parents and the important role they play in the community.

This year, Grand Valley residents Joan and Glen (whose last name is being withheld to respect the confidentiality of children in their care) are one couple being recognized.

For the past ten years they have opened their home to those in need, though they have children and grandchildren of their own. Joan says it has been an incredible journey and feels being a foster parent is something she was truly meant to do.

Before getting involved with children’s services, Joan says she was working at a seniors’ residence. She loved her job but wanted to work from home.

“I thought if I can’t work with seniors, then I’d like to work with children at the other end of the spectrum. So I called the Children’s Aid Society,” she said.

“It’s a roller coaster ride, I would say,” she laughs. “You never know in the morning what’s coming so you have to be ready, you have to have your skills in order, you have to have your peace of mind ready to handle whatever’s coming because it could be just about anything.”

Families to Permanence worker Kirk Jenkins says fostering isn’t a job for Joan, but a passion.

“She’s a special person. I think she does get great satisfaction being able to give back and open her home and heart to a child,” he says. “It’s definitely not for the money. She is a mother, she’s a grandparent – she’s just the type of person where family comes first.”

Jenkins also says that Joan does not shy away from bringing more challenging cases into her home and has had many teenagers stay with her over the years.

“She has taken in teenagers that have experienced situations that are really awful and they lack trust and they’re distrustful and they’re angry and they’re frightened and it’s hard for them to have relationships,” he says. “But she just uses a warm gentle approach. She has this determination about her that she’s going to try and do everything she can for them.”

Jenkins says every child will test their foster parent when they first enter a home, and this can be a difficult period.

“Their experience is that people have let them down and they’re always testing to see, okay will this person let me down, will they reject me like my family did,” Jenkins says. “She’s very sensitive to that and she doesn’t give up on the child.”

Reflecting on some of the more challenging moments, Joan takes it in stride.

“Everyone comes with their own kit bag full of needing answers, needing help, needing direction, needing nourishing, needing guidance,” she says.

One of hardest aspects of being a foster parent is developing relationships with children and not knowing if they will stay for a few weeks or a few years. Joan says that it can be difficult to see them go, but she finds comfort in knowing she cared for them to the best of her abilities during that time - and hopefully given them something that will help carry them into the future.

“It’s my job to do the best that I could do to be able to help them move forward,” she says. “I hope that I have been a part of them finding their feet and their wings so they can go forward in this big world and find their place.”

The Family and Children’s Services Appreciation event is at the Ariss Golf and Country Club on Oct. 21 at 6:30pm

October 17, 2014


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