A family is more than just biology – a family is a community of people we lean on when experiencing the greatest challenges of life – and being a foster parent is just that – an important part of a community for vulnerable young people when they need someone to lean on the most.
Our community heavily relies on adults to open their homes and hearts to these young people. Foster parents play a critical role; they may not be biologically related, but they are part of a caring and supportive family that will have an immensely positive impact on their lives and Hull’s Fostering Connections (FC) program has been uniting young people with families for the past 40 years.
FC supports children who are in the government’s care and who have no immediate options to stay with family or kin. The program provides children with a safe, caring family home that can support their healthy development and provide meaningful connections until they are transitioned to their forever home. FC supports children and youth referred by Calgary and Area Children’s Services from ages birth to 17 years from various backgrounds, abilities, and needs.
Along with giving exceptional support to the children, we have always provided that same support to the foster parents.
“We have a team of highly experienced support staff that meet regularly with foster parents and the children in their care, and that provide a myriad of services such as regular foster parent meetings for peer support, quality training and professional development, access to Hull’s Trauma-Informed Services, targeted and individualized goal planning, family celebration events, access to Agency child mentors and cultural resources, and 24/7 on call support,” says Gail Coates, Program Director at Hull Services. “Our families tell us that they value the relationships, support, and services we provide.”
That support is why Foster parents Aicha and Richard have kept their doors open for over a decade – beginning their journey when a little boy needed a home.
“We weren’t even thinking about being foster parents,” says Richard. “I was working at a school where there was a homeless child and we inquired about helping him and his caseworker asked if we were able to bring him into our house and he stayed for three and a half years as a kinship.”
That caseworker happened to be an employee of Hull – and when the boy transitioned out into his next phase of life, the caseworker encouraged them to continue their fostering journey with our FC program. Aicha and Richard’s three children were grown and moved out – and they loved children, so their decision was easy.
Aicha and Richard say it’s very rewarding helping kids in need; being able to provide that gift of a healthy family home to them. But, they are quick to point out it is a gift for them as well.
“I have a lot of people say these kids are lucky to have me,” says Aicha. “And I say, ‘yeah, but I’m lucky to have them, too’ otherwise I would probably be a couch potato; they keep me young.”
Fostering doesn’t come without its challenges; it means supporting young people who aren’t able to live with their families for various reasons and have experienced the harsh realities of life at a young age. You have a lot to teach them.
“I tell all the kids they need to love and respect themselves first,” says Aicha.
And that’s exactly how Felipe feels, a previous foster child of Aicha and Richard.
“My foster mom and dad had a huge positive impact in my life,” says Felipe. “They demonstrated love, patience and understanding to all my difficulties. I felt appreciated as a family member and, I still do.”
Felipe came from Columbia to live with his father when he was 16 – the environment ended up being one he was not able to thrive in so he was placed with Aicha and Richard through our FC program – an experience that changed him.
“I have a whole different (in a positive way) perspective of life,” says Felipe. “My desired future career seems to be way more achievable. I genuinely feel more kind. I have acquired a new language. I feel more appreciation for the people that surround me.”
The relationship fostered between Felipe and Aicha and Richard is a perfect example of just how important it is for people to have strong positive connections in our life – it’s instrumental to a healthy, fulfilling life.
And foster parents touch the lives of so many who need it, every day.
“I would say fostering is the best form of help that a person can provide,” says Felipe. “It might not be the easiest one, but in the long term, people like me will be genuinely helped.”
And our staff have seen the impact of the support over and over again.
“We see a wide range of positive outcomes, from children being reunited with parent(s), going to live with other family members, or a foster home becoming a child’s legal forever home; and children and youth engaging in cultural discovery, experiencing success in school, and achieving their hopes and dreams,” says Gail. So, whether a child is in one of our foster homes for a short period, or longer term, we are all impacted by that child’s unique story and are invested in that child becoming the best version of themselves.”
Together we create family – we connect family – we become family – and it’s what we call a strong community – people being there for each other, in the good times and in the bad.
A new fostering program recently opened at Hull Services: Therapeutic Foster Caregiving
Therapeutic Foster Caregiving (TFC) is a culturally responsive, family-based service for youth ages 13-17 with complex care needs, who would benefit from therapeutic and specialized services delivered by skilled, trained, nurturing caregivers and the youth’s therapeutic team.
If you have a passion for working with youth and are interested in becoming a foster parent, our Therapeutic Foster Care team could use you!