We are the Kopp family and we are entering into our 25th year of fostering for Alberta Children Services. One of the roles I do within my fostering career is as a volunteer in the area of advocacy for foster homes that have had allegations reported within their homes. I am there for the foster parents, kinship and adoptive caregivers undergoing investigation. For several years I have been involved in working with other caregivers, staff of ACS and community, towards better outcomes for the children and youth in care and their caregivers as a whole. I have seen and been part of many a change and the never ending need for change.
I am writing today in response to the articles regarding the Fatal Care series. One of my intentions here is to address both the system and the people that work tirelessly within that very system.
Alberta Children Services like many Protective Services nationally face chronic organizational challenges that undermine their ability to provide appropriate case management, services, and supports to the children and families in their care. Reports of children being injured or dying while in care throw the entire system into crisis in all areas inclusive of foster families and other caregivers under the umbrella of Foster Care.
This is what I know and has been my experience. That ACS is an overtaxed System that has the responsibility to take on more and more children suffering with more complex problems than before, and all under the scrutiny of the media as is witnessed by the articles published as of late.
Do you know the amount of stress that goes into the day-to-day job of being a worker or in a management position having to make critical decisions every single day? Please keep in mind the fact that many workers have lives and families of their own and yet I personally know of several of them, that have, when a foster parent calls to say their foster child is in need of emergent medical attention, or a youth has put themselves at risk, they leave their families, and go to be at the side of the child and caregiver?
It is my belief that in most situations ACS truly does try to do what is “in the best interest of the child”. The question asked by many is what does that term mean. It is my understanding that it is used to describe a set of principles, and facts within each individual situation that quide a judge to consider, when assessing what decisions would keep a child or children safe. That same judge than relies on ACS to meet the needs of the child(ren) including, at times, putting the child into care with the end goal many times being reunification with family of origin. The “best interests of a child” is very subjective and often very frustrating for those who care for a child and have a different point of view as to what would be in a child’s best interest.
Children have been placed in our home and others for a number of reasons. For some, that begins shortly after their birth, when it is clear that a mother is unable or yes, unwilling to care for her newborn. Other children come into care as the result of disclosure to a teacher, a social worker, police, or a member of the community and also sometimes by members of their own biological family. A number of children that have been placed in our home may have experienced physical or sexual abuse at the hands of adults in their lives. Many are also placed with us as the result of parents battling mental illness, poverty, addictions, which have seen them neglect or harm their own children.