Fostering runs in the family for James and Leslie. James’s grandmother cared for many children when friends and family were unable to.
“The impulse to look after your own people is a big part of First Nations culture,” Leslie says.
Leslie’s work as a teacher, seeing children in care every day, was even more of a drive for her to become a foster parent. With so many First Nations children in need of a foster family, she wanted to give back to her community.
“We fell in love with them right away. That part is never hard,” Leslie says.
Being placed with caregivers from their Nation has allowed the two teenage boys to reconnect with their culture. “It’s so important to know your heritage and your background,” Leslie says. “It gives you something to say. ‘This is who I am, it’s where I’m from.’”
The family regularly joins together in traditional ceremony, dancing or singing as a group. The couple also use their native language around the home so that their children are immersed in their culture. “They just soak up so much so quickly,” James says. “Hopefully, at some point in their life, they’re going to use what we’re trying to give to them.”
Any type of change is hard, and the boys are learning how to be brothers again after being separated for six years. Yet Leslie says she wouldn’t change it.
“No matter what, there’s always work. Everybody’s got a little bit of baggage,” she says.
The strength and resiliency of their foster children inspires the couple every day.
“You do what you need to do because it’s the kids that matter,” Leslie says.
The couple also have a strong support system in place. Other family members have their own special relationships with the foster children. Leslie and James have a strong relationship with the boys’ biological father.
“It’s important to honour the connection that the biological parents have with their children. You need to give and take, while protecting your own family unit,” Leslie says.
The boys are now an essential part of the family. The couple feel that the two brothers have come full circle.
“You hear so many negative stories about fostering, but that’s not been the case at all for us. We’ve had such a positive experience. It’s been everything we wanted,” Leslie says. “I have purpose every day of my life.”http://fosteringconnections.ca/
- Foster family homes are the primary placement resource for children in care in B.C.
- These homes support children and teens who are unable to live with their traditional family for reasons of abuse, neglect, emergency or tragedy.
- 61% of children in care in B.C. are Aboriginal. There is a need for more Aboriginal families willing to foster so that all children in care can maintain their cultural and community connections.
- Foster parents must be in good physical and mental health. They receive training and undergo background, criminal record and reference checks. On average, the approval process takes three months.
- Once the approval process is successfully completed, new foster parents sign an agreement outlining their responsibilities and complete the 53-hour B.C. Foster Care Education Program within two years.
- B.C. Federation of Foster Parent Associations: www.bcfosterparents.ca/
- Indigenous Perspectives Society: http://ipsociety.ca/