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We Hire Anybody

December 11, 2010 permalink

While social services boast of carefully vetting foster parents for suitability and giving them specialized training. the reality is that fosters are hired with no vetting and no training. Saskatchewan foster parents Carol and Mathew Bird are examples. They are conscientious only through accident.



Saskatchewan couple asked to take foster kids with little warning, no records check

Carol and Mathew Bird
Carol and Mathew Bird say they were surprised when social workers unexpectedly asked them to care for three foster children on an emergency basis.
Photograph by: Gord Waldner, StarPhoenix

They could have been anybody. Carol and Mathew Bird unexpectedly became foster parents last spring, without a criminal record check or a social worker inspecting their home to determine if it was safe, or appropriate, for the three children they were asked to care for on short notice.

"We were clueless, we didn't have any idea what we were doing. We just pretended it was like a long-term babysitting job," said Carol.

"We thought, 'Oh, they must just trust us because we run the Lighthouse (youth centre) and have a good reputation in the community.

"Then we thought about it and said, 'Wait a minute. We could have been anybody.' "

A few months after the Birds applied to the province to adopt a child, they received a phone call from a social worker asking them to care for three foster children on an emergency basis. Within hours, the siblings, all under the age of 10, arrived at their door.

The Birds and their own four children were living in and renovating a 10,000-square-foot youth facility outside Rosetown and had a lot of space, though no extra bedrooms. The foster children were sleeping on mattresses on the floor in "attic-like" storage spaces and some of the rooms did not have windows or proper fire exits.

The home later passed inspection by Social Services and the couple was told because their home was an emergency placement, regulations were more flexible.

A week after the children were placed the Birds were asked to get criminal record checks. Mathew completed his quickly, but Carol's took weeks because she was at home caring for seven children.

Andrea Brittin, executive director for service delivery for child and family services, said when children are placed in emergency situations by the government, there is a home safety assessment, and anyone over 18 in the home must sign a temporary criminal record declaration, declaring they have no record, before an actual criminal record check is done.

Brittin could not say whether those procedures were followed in the Birds' case.

No training was given and there was no further instruction to the Birds, only to supervise the children at all times, with specific attention paid to one of the children, who had spoken up about a sexual abuse.

This child was not allowed to be left alone with any other children at any time. The Birds were never asked to take the children to a sexual assault centre, a counsellor or a doctor's office for investigation.

Throughout the children's stay, the Birds became acquainted with the children's mother. Six of her 10 children had been taken away after the reported assault.

The mother of the children then did everything the ministry asked her to get them back, and the Birds believe the children should be returned home.

The Birds hope taking their story to the media may force Social Services to re-examine the case.

Source: The Regina Leader-Post

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