The Story So Far
“With one percent of the population of children of British Columbia causing sixty-five percent of the homeless problem and knowing that those children are under our care today are the homeless of the future The British Columbia Federation of Foster Parent Associations is unique in its ability to impact homelessness and crime in our province.
This is an idea that will change forever how we deal with children who are disconnected from parents, family and home. The British Columbia Federation of Foster Parents Associations is unique in its ability to connect foster children to our communities, and divert them away from the street thereby helping them become contributing members of our communities. (Or this could be Melanie’s Quote)
We have developed a major resource to achieve this …our communication centre…fosterchildren.ca. We now need support from the community in placing information in the centre and developing a child centered approach to understand the unique abilities of each child and put a program in place that allows each child to connect to the community positively”
Melanie Filiatrault, President
British Columbia Federation of Foster parent Associations
The Community Children Centre began from ideas generated in working with the British Columbia Federation of Foster Parent Associations. We created fosterchildren.ca together as an enterprise to connect to and build relationships with children and youth, foster parents, and our communities
In 2007 and 2008, the Federation began holding Idea Forums throughout British Columbia in response to the issue of low graduation rate and homelessness among former youth in care. 13 Idea Forums were held in the North, Interior, Vancouver Coastal, and Vancouver Island Regions.
The fosterchildren.ca web site was developed to act as a communication centre regarding the outcomes of these forums. It was launched in February 2008. The Idea Forums also resulted in joint collaboration between other provincial groups serving children, the business community, and counseling services.
Through the use of Idea Forums we were successful in connecting and building relationships with foster parents, the child care community and government officials throughout the Kootenays and the South Central Interior
We have created a Communication Centre to support foster parents and foster children. This communication centre will improve our ability to communicate with those involved in child care and the overall communities we serve and who can contribute to our success.
Identified and articulated a major community issue of children and youth not being prepared by the child care system to integrate into the communities and many ending up homeless on the street.
Articulated the costs to the community of homelessness
The Federation is now positioned to engage the British Columbia business community and the community in general by telling people what we contribute to the community and so they could contribute to opportunities and become part of our community enterprise
What we know
Our opportunity for success as a federation still lies in our original idea of connecting to the community (foster community, child care community, business community and the communities in which we live)
Connecting to the community will benefit foster parents and foster children
Idea forums enable us to create connections
Broadening the audience of the Idea Forums will allow us to connect to the resources of the community
The issue that will interest all communities in connecting with us is homelessness and the crime associated with it
The issue of homelessness remains unresolved
The community is just beginning to realize the high cost of having people live on the streets.
Many in the business community are seeing the need to do something about homelessness
A child centered approach is the only viable solution to keeping children off the street
Foster parents are capable of dealing with the issues of each child under their care but lack the resources
The BCFFPA is uniquely positioned to help the communities resolve homelessness by developing alternatives to the street for foster children
Conversation with people from the community interested in reducing homelessness support the involvement of the BCFFPA in this issue
Initial conversations with the general community indicate a willingness to provide resources to support the BCFFPA
The names and addresses of the associations and service clubs who can connect us to those resources
What next for the BCFFPA and fosterchildren.ca
Create connections outside the child care community. Use business associations to create connections to the resources of the business community and service clubs to create connections to the resources of individuals and foundations
Identify and contact contributors for the continued development of fosterchildren.ca and the community Idea Forums
Identify opportunities to speak to business associations and service clubs
Continue to develop new ideas on how we can connect to the community (the more options we have the greater the opportunity)
Develop video to accompany the talk and put on communication centre
Inform government (politicians) of our intentions
Use fosterchildren.ca to connect with business, politicians and the general public
Develop opportunities to contribute so when asked “what can we do?’ we have options available. Place these on fosterchildren.ca
Develop stories of resources needed for the communication centre
Use the ideas and initiatives on fosterchildren.ca to move forward
Continue developing our business like approach and our business connections
CONNECTING OUR CHILDREN TO OUR COMMUNITY
What we know
In British Columbia, 65% of the people living on the street were in the provincial child care system. Yet system kids, as they are called, represent less than 1% of our children.
Foster children often leave the system inadequately prepared to become contributing members of our communities as adults. Only 21% of system kids graduate from high school compared to 78% of other Canadian youth. Many end up on the street, on welfare, or involved in crime.
People who live on the street consume a disproportionate amount of our community resources. There are more than 235 agencies and programs in the east side of Vancouver alone managing homelessness and the homeless. CBC’S Fifth Estate estimates the cost of maintaining someone on the street is between $30,000 and $40,000 per year and the cost of keeping a youth in prison is $100,000 per year. Taxpayers are bearing the costs.
The foster parent community knows the names, addresses and phone numbers of the majority of tomorrow’s homeless. The British Columbia Federation of Foster Parent Associations, other foster parent associations, and our individual foster parents, are major resources in reducing the number of people living on the street and the crime associated with that lifestyle in the future.
Research is providing more information about the homeless, – who they are, where they come from, what keeps them on the street, what is needed to help them off the street, – and how they got there in the first place. This is causing a shift away from the idea of managing the homeless to caring about people as individuals.
Almost every child has the potential to grow up to become a positive contributor to our community. Foster children are unique individuals who need an individual child centered approach. We need to be asking the question “Then what?”, – and focusing our resources on preparing them for life after leaving the child care system, recognizing their abilities, assisting them to become independent from government welfare, and reducing the risk of a life of crime.
What we are doing about it
The British Columbia Federation of Foster Parents Associations has launched www.fosterchildren.ca to engage communities in British Columbia, – businesses, business associations, community groups, service clubs, governments, and individuals, – in conversations about how we can help foster children and youth find ways to become contributing members of our community when they grow up.
www.fosterchildren.ca is a communication centre that
– provides foster parents with the information and ideas to help foster children discover who they are, explore their interests, abilities and talents
– engages the community in conversations about how we can develop resources for foster children and youth
– allows children and youth to be connected with community resources
– contains information and reports helpful to foster children and foster parents, stories of those needing additional resources, and stories of the people and businesses that are providing those resources, and
– gives foster parents the ability to share ideas on what is working, what could work, and what we could do better
Why we are doing it
The business case for www.fosterchildren.ca is based on the idea that all children, even those who are marginalized, have abilities to contribute. We need to invest the resources of our community in our children and youth while they are in our care, or risk the costs associated with helping them later as marginalized and dependant adults.
Foster children will benefit from professional assistance in planning their future, tutoring to help with their education, equipment for their schooling, recreational activities and summer camps to develop their social skills, and tuition for post secondary education. The community will benefit from less homelessness and less crime, – and more healthy contributing adults participating in our community.
The British Columbia Federation of Foster Parents Associations is seeking ideas for initiatives that give children and youth in the provincial child care system opportunities to improve their chances of becoming contributing community members instead of an ongoing cost to our limited resources.
The following are current areas of focus for fosterchildren.ca:
1) In order to excite people in the community about the possibilities of fosterchildren.ca have a representative from fosterchildren.ca host Idea Forms with community groups and business associations providing them with information about what we know and seek information and ideas on from them on how foster parents can work cooperatively with the community to reduce homelessness and crime.
2) Continue the development of Fosterchildren.ca and populate it with content.
3) Find community contributors. Extend opportunities to businesses, individuals, foundations, and community groups for financing the development of Fosterchildren.ca as a communication centre and creating a child centered approach to helping children in the provincial child care system take know and appreciate their abilities and how to use them to their benefit and the benefit of the community