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Alberta CYS Dysfunctional

June 4, 2011 permalink

Alberta foster mother Cathy Evarts is criticizing the Alberta child protection system as dysfunctional. Her own two foster children were ignored by social workers for a year and a half, then moved out to their aunt, a placement that broke down in a week. Social services refused to return the kids to Cathy, though she was willing to take them.



Former foster family questions Alberta’s commitment to helping children

Cathy Evarts and children
Cathy Evarts and her biological children, who live in Whitecourt, Alberta.
Photograph by: Supplied,

EDMONTON — A former foster family says a systemic lack of support, training and resources put their two foster babies and their biological children at risk.

Cathy and Wade Evarts wrote an impassioned letter to Children and Youth Services Minister Yvonne Fritz in February, pleading for the government to improve what they view as an unstable foster system.

The system is plagued by case overloads, burned-out foster parents who can’t get respite, and lack of communication and accountability that puts kids at risk, Cathy Evarts said Friday in a phone interview from Whitecourt.

“I felt we were a stable family and I thought we had enough experience and love and non-judgment to take these children into our home, but at the time, we were so naive,” said Evarts, 44. “We didn’t know the system was so dysfunctional.”

She shared her experience with the foster system following news that a four-month-old baby died six days after being apprehended and placed in a south-Edmonton foster home.

The baby’s mother, who cannot be identified, wants to know why her child died and why the infant was taken away, since the social workers initially arrived April 5 to apprehend her roommate’s two children. A signed affidavit says one social worker suspected the mother was an alcoholic.

The Evarts, who have been married 21 years, received two foster infants during an emergency placement in the spring of 2008. The siblings, ages one and two at the time, had been neglected by parents with addiction problems. They were welcomed by Cathy and Wade and their children.

Believing the two foster children were there temporarily, Cathy said the family adjusted, even though their vehicle didn’t have room for everyone and they initially didn’t have enough beds.

“Our home was obviously overcrowded,” Cathy said. “This was our first time. … I’m very naive to think social services must know what they’re doing if they’re picking our home to take these children.”

During the 18 months the two children lived with them, Cathy said the family was overwhelmed. Two weekends every month were spent driving the children to visit their four biological siblings, who were placed in a different foster home, or their parents. They lived a four-hour drive away.

Cathy said those trips were a financial burden, but she wanted the children’s mother to maintain tight bonds.

Cathy said she wasn’t given enough in-depth training on how to incorporate Métis culture into the children’s lives. Regular evaluations of their home were not done, despite questions from Cathy.

“We had no quality individual time for our biological children. We were missing soccer games and school functions,” Cathy wrote in a letter to Fritz.

She asked the minister to review their case file and the files of their two foster children to see how care and available resources could be improved. “When we expressed our concerns to our support worker, her only support was to tell us that we were doing great and stopped over for tea to validate how busy the children were.”

When taking the children for visits became too much to handle, Cathy reluctantly sent them with drivers they did not know, some of whom didn’t have car seats. Upon return, both children wet their beds, despite being potty-trained, and had night terrors, Cathy said.

She asked for respite care, then discovered no caregivers were available.

She also asked for the children’s case files, but didn’t receive them until 10 months after the toddlers arrived. Only then did the Evarts learn the kids had been exposed to possible sexual interference, which was later confirmed.

The Evarts resigned as foster parents when the two children were sent to live at their aunt’s house. Cathy rescinded the resignation when the aunt’s care broke down within seven days. She believed her home would be the best solution for the children, whom she loves.

They were denied.

“We think it is clear that the foster-care system has continually failed to protect and improve the lives of our most vulnerable citizens,” Cathy said in her letter to Fritz, noting she knows other families who have also quit. “The time for the foster-care system to change is now.”

Fritz responded with a letter March 17.

“I appreciate you sharing your concerns with me so that we may learn and continue to improve programs and supports that are available to foster parents,” the minister wrote. She thanked the Evarts for helping establish a comprehensive reporting process for foster parents and standards for drivers.

John Tuckwell, spokesman for the children’s services department, said Friday the budget for foster parenting increased to $171 million this year, up $2.6 million from last year. That shows the government is committed to making the foster system the best it can be, he said. That money is used for respite care, compensation for parents and support workers.

About 4,700 children are in foster care in Alberta.

Source: Edmonton Journal