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Canada Has 47,885 Foster Children

September 19, 2012 permalink

The Canadian census has counted foster children for the first time, finding 47,885 of them. These are kids take from mom and dad and placed in the homes of strangers. There are other children under care of child protectors, those in institutions and those still with their own parents but supervised by children's aid societies. The article gives some breakdowns, such as how many are in homes with only one foster child and their age distribution.



Census: Canada’s foster children counted for first time

John Dunn
John Dunn is director of the Foster Care Council of Canada, a group that advocates for people in foster care.

They are among Canada’s most vulnerable children and, for the first time in census history, their numbers have been counted.

According to the latest census release from Statistics Canada, a total of 47,885 children were living in foster care in Canada in 2011.

Nationally, their numbers are small, accounting for just 0.5 per cent of children aged 14 and under.

But for the first time, the census provides a one-day, Canada-wide snapshot of children and youth who have been removed from their families — vital information that has been missing in the child welfare system.

The majority of foster children — 29,590, or about 62 per cent — were aged 14 and under; 29 per cent were four and younger.

Foster children were more likely to be living with couples, particularly married couples, with the proportion of children 14 and younger living in “out-of-home” care highest in Manitoba, followed by the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon.

The census doesn’t break down aboriginal status. While there’s a higher proportion of aboriginal people in Manitoba and the North, “we can’t say that’s all among aboriginal children,” Badets said.

However, aboriginal children are tragically and disproportionately over-represented “at every point of contact in the child welfare system,” said Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada.

Studies suggest that First Nations children are 12 times more likely to come into care compared to non-aboriginal children, and that a “toxic combination” of factors — including poverty, poor housing and substance abuse — are driving aboriginal children into the child welfare system, said Nico Trocme, a professor in the school of social work at Montreal’s McGill University and director of the Centre for Research on Children and Families.

“It’s not because First Nations families are somehow more abusive, that’s not what we’re finding,” Trocme said.

Rather, First Nations families are living in far worse conditions than non-aboriginals, even those living in extreme poverty, he said.

“The key answer — and it’s not an easy one — is to actually deal with the issue of child poverty, family poverty and poor housing, both for First Nations and non-aboriginal families.”

According to the census, a total of 17,410 households in Canada contained at least one foster child aged 14 and under in 2011. More than half — 57 per cent — were households with married couples; about 12 per cent were common-law couples and 14 per cent were lone-parent families.

Of the foster children counted, 8,590 were aged four and under; 11,455 were teens aged 15 to 19.

The main reason adolescents come into care is because of parent-child conflict, Trocme said. “These are often situations where the youth or the parent, or both, are asking the child welfare system, please help us.”

Some children are court-ordered into care, and others not. But Trocme said that most children stay in care for less than six months, and most — more than 50 per cent — are able to go home, stay home and never return to foster care.

However, “there is a small minority for whom their experience is quite different — children who end up having difficulty settling into a stable arrangement for a range of reasons, and who end up moving frequently,” he said. “And that’s always a concern — the impact of multiple moves on their well-being and development.

“From the foster children I’ve met, from the foster parents I’ve met, I certainly hear many more positive stories than negative ones,” Trocme said.

“But we have so little information,” he added, saying that “our best guess” is that the rate of admission to foster care in Canada has been increasing over the past decade.

“A good parent knows about her children, it’s just that straightforward,” said Gordon Phaneuf, acting chief executive officer of the Child Welfare League of Canada.

“We need to know about the circumstances of our vulnerable children. We need to know how many are in care, we need to know the circumstances that brought them into care, we need to know how they’re functioning,” he said.

John Dunn lived in foster care for 16 years, from the time he was taken from his mother when he was 18 months old, until his 18th birthday. He lived in 13 different homes.

“You’re always the new kid in school. You’re always adjusting, you’re always losing friends,” said Dunn, volunteer executive director of the Foster Care Council of Canada.

“Sometimes it’s instant. You don’t have time to say goodbye. You’re just gone one day from school, or gone from wherever,” he said.

“I used to call it like a constant state of mourning.”

Source: Edmonton Journal