Monday, 8 October 2012

Foster care makes hearts and wallets heavy

"Do you like Dora?" Jerome Rumbaoa, 22, asks his five-year-old foster sibling, L.

"I like Dora," L giggles, not looking up. She fiddles with her purple plastic ring.

"What else?" he presses.

"Batman," she smiles. "And Jerome."

They laugh.

Bloodvein River (
L is one of three Aboriginal foster children living in the Rumbaoa residence. She is also the child who has stayed with the family the longest, since she was two weeks old in 2007. The other two kids currently in the Rumbaoas' care, M and A, are newer additions to the family. L and A came from Hollow Water Reserve while M came from Bloodvein Reserve.

The Rumbaoas have been a foster family since 2007, but they had a different batch of kids at first.

"It started with two sisters and one brother. They were teenagers, maybe about 13-14. The oldest sister was 14," Rumbaoa explains. "That was a different experience because the teenagers were kind of rebellious and they wanted to do what they wanted to do."

Rumbaoa's parents had applied for foster care through the Southeast Child and Family Services. Rumbaoa says this particular branch deals with Aboriginal children from certain reserves. The application process had included good references, household inspections, and personal interviews.

Rumbaoa reveals, "[My parents also] had to attend a workshop that teaches them to communicate and how to handle kids and how to discipline them."

At that workshop, the parents were taught to take care of Aboriginal kids.

"When these kids ask where the parents are or what happened to the parents or if we are their blood families, we would have to respond, 'oh, your parents are trying to get better and you'll be with them,'" Rumbaoa says.

M, the newest foster child, has been separated from his mom since March since he joined the Rumbaoa family. When asked why he switched families, he replied with, "'cause she's drinking."

He recalls the day he was taken away. "When I was hiding under the table, she told me to go to my room and I don't know who was carrying me from the living room. [...] I had to go with my CFS worker."

The Rumbaoas haven't had any problems so far with Child and Family services, but some foster care agencies aren't as thorough as CFS when it comes to background checks.

According to an article on CBC entitled "Canadian foster care in crisis, experts say", some children are placed in foster homes without complete safety checks. Some families don't even care about the kids and just do it for the money. The article reads, "Foster-care rates differ by province, but tend to range between $23 and just over $30 a day."

It sickens me to think that someone could be signing up to be a foster parent with ill intentions. These children have been through so much and to imagine them tossed into an equally terrible situation is painful. I've heard of people solely viewing these Aboriginal foster children as petty cheques in their bank accounts, and I don't like it one bit.

I've seen the difference these foster kids have made on Rumbaoa's life. They have opened his eyes and filled his heart with something he's never experienced before. Once oblivious to Aboriginal issues, Rumbaoa is now attending pow wows with his foster siblings so that they don't forget their culture and that he can learn about it.

For more information about foster care, go to the Child and Family Services website.

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