There is a serious shortage of foster parents in Prescott-Russell.

Valoris for Children and Adults of Prescott-Russell, the local children and youth services agency, has 85 children in its care right now and 90 foster homes.

Valoris Director of Operations Beverly Byrne-Reitsma said while that number seems adequate, the real challenge is properly matching children with appropriate foster homes. She said every effort is made to ensure a child is in a home that fits their needs, along with other factors like language, culture, and religion.

The need for foster homes for one age group is especially high.

“We have a very high need for adolescents,” Byrne-Reitsma said.

She explained that accepting teenaged foster children is challenging for many people because of the difficulties associated with life in those years but emphasized that the relationship can end up being extremely rewarding for the child and foster parents.

“All they want is someone to connect with them,” said Byrne-Reitsma.

The first step to take for anyone interested in becoming a foster parent is to call Valoris. Then, the lengthy assessment process begins. A social worker visits the home of interested parents. Things like parenting methods and lifestyle pattern are taken into consideration.

Social workers spend many hours discussing life in the home with every person living in it. Reference letters are required from friends, neighbours, extended family members. Doctors must attest that the person is physically capable of taking on the responsibility of being a foster parent.

And of course, there is a very thorough police record check.

Once the screening is complete, there is further training. Byrne-Reitsma said the training stage also gives applicants the opportunity to decide if they want to proceed—or not, with becoming foster parents.

Becoming a foster parent is not limited to so-called “traditional” families.

“We accept all kinds of families,” said Byrne-Reitsma.

Applying to become a foster parent is free, and so is the training. Applicants must be 18 or over though.

Foster parents are paid a per diem for the costs associated with having a child in their home. They are provided a clothing allowance and are reimbursed for travel costs associated with taking children to appointments or activities.

Byrne-Reitsma also said Valoris needs people who will take in adults with intellectual disabilities for its home-share program, and for people to provide respite service for that program.

With home-share, a person is placed in a household where they can be provided with a proper living environment.  Respite spaces are in households that home-share residents go to when the people in their regular household need a break.

Anyone interested in becoming a foster parent or taking part in participating in the home-share program can contact Valoris for further information at 1-800-675-6168.