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Fosters Usurp Mother's Day
May 11, 2007 permalink
In anticipation of Mother's Day this Sunday the Globe and Mail salutes women who care for the children of others for pay.
Dufferin VOCA extends the salute to mothers who risk their lives to give birth, provide years of care at no pay and continue to love their children even years after they are taken away and placed in the care of others.
In praise of 'other mothers'
From Thursday's Globe and Mail, May 10, 2007 at 1:15 PM EDT
Melanie Filiatrault has 42 children, not counting the three she gave birth to herself.
This Sunday, the 52-year-old Kelowna resident expects to receive Mother's Day calls from about 12 of the boys and girls she has provided foster care to over the past 20 years - kids she considers her own.
"Even that one call from a child shows that you've made a difference in their life," said Ms. Filiatrault, who has a collection of Mother's Day cards and trinkets piled in her attic.
But while the children themselves express gratitude, some of Canada's approximately 35,000 foster families say their efforts go largely unnoticed by the rest of society, not just on the second Sunday in May, but throughout the year.
"If you go into it thinking you're going to get rewarded, you probably won't," Ms. Filiatrault said. "But if you go into it thinking you're going to make a difference in a child's life, it'll be worth it."
Yesterday, a group of Toronto-area foster parents gathered for a special audience with author and actress Victoria Rowell, who told them about the difference foster care made in her life.
Famous for her role as Drucilla Winters on the soap opera The Young and the Restless, Ms. Rowell has written a book, The Women Who Raised Me, chronicling the 18 years she spent in foster care in the United States before becoming a professional ballet dancer and, eventually, a daytime television star.
She wrote the book to pay tribute to those who wouldn't let her fall through the cracks, but also to celebrate all the "other mothers" - foster parents, social workers, mentors, aunts and grandmothers who often play a major role in a child's development.
"What they did was raise a child, collectively," she said. "There are millions of women who have done what these women did for me."
Among the women who raised Ms. Rowell was a 54-year-old housewife who took her in as an infant, but was told she could not keep a child who was half black. Another foster mother taught ballet to the dance-obsessed young Victoria out of a magazine.
Ms. Rowell had saved more than 500 letters from her various foster mothers, all of whom helped her get over the shame of not being raised by her biological parents.
Susan McDevitt, a social worker and executive director of the Federation of Foster Families of Nova Scotia, said she sees the same efforts being put forward by the 650 foster families in her province.
Most people who work with displaced young people, from foster parents to Children's Aid Society officials, are motivated by a love of kids. But, she said, many foster families still struggle with issues of negative public perception, fuelled by occasional news stories about abuse or neglect. While those cases are rare, Ms. McDevitt says it is still common to regard foster parents as service providers, not parents.
"They don't feel they're respected," she said.
There have been efforts to improve attitudes toward foster mothers and other caregivers. In 2002, the card maker American Greetings introduced a line of Mother's Day cards that acknowledged the "other mother" phenomenon of adoptive parents, aunts and role models.
"Because you're like a mother to me, I'm thinking of you," one card reads.
Ms. Filiatrault said she thinks of all her foster children on Mother's Day, no matter where they are now, scattered across the country.
"You always hope they're doing awesome," she said. "I'm just very pleased and honoured to have been their parent for a short period of time."
Source: Globe and Mail
John Dunn points out that not all foster mothers are as angelic as suggested by the Globe and Mail.
Having grown up in foster care for sixteen years, I have to say that yes, there are good foster parents out there. Yet at the same time, I have had my head flushed down a toilet for a large bowel movement causing flooding, sat upon and pushed head first into a furnace for wetting a bed, watched my brother get his back hurt while being pushed over a couch, been in group homes which were shut down due to abuse and much more.
These and thousands more stories of physical, sexual and emotional abuse are locked away deeply in "serious occurrence reports" located in the archives of the Children's Aid Societies who protect them with a vengeance. Of course we only hear of the major stories once in a while about abuse of kids in care if they are "serious enough" and get leaked somehow with evidence.
These agencies have extremely high priced lawyers (paid by your tax dollars) to threaten media outlets who dare to publish information or allegations by child welfare clients. One huge, well known Canadian, Crown Corporation broadcaster is currently involved in law suits by child welfare departments for reporting information of such a nature.
Those who come out of the system who have been damaged by it, or those in it, are often looked at as trouble makers, and are silenced, ignored and made to feel as if they are doing something wrong by speaking out. I can only ask you to remember such stories as Cornwall and Native Residential Schools and how people who were trusted the most with the care of our children and how they failed us and tried so hard to cover it up.
Just remember one thing. Who has the most resources? The government funded agencies with Billion Dollar budgets or those who have been left familyless and on the street at 18.
Source: email from John Dunn