MORE FUNDING FOR FOSTER CHILDREN, MORE MENTORING OPPORTUNITIES BUILD ON PROVINCE'S SUPPORT FOR FOSTER FAMILIES
– – – Record Levels of Stable Funding Will Help Ensure all Manitoba's Children Live up to Their Potential: Howard
Foster parents will have more training and mentorship opportunities, and an increase to basic child maintenance rates worth more than $1 million, as Manitoba continues increasing investments that nurture and protect some of the province’s most vulnerable children, Family Services and Labour Minister Jennifer Howard announced today.
“Foster families are absolutely essential in our quest to ensure all our province’s children are safe and empowered to live up to their potential,” the minister said. “More than 800 new families began the rewarding work of fostering children last year, for a total of about 4,800 foster families across the province. This rate increase and additional resources for training and mentoring will strengthen the network of support for foster families and help ensure this trend continues.”
With an annual increase of more than $1 million, effective Oct. 1, 2012, Manitoba foster families will have seen the basic child maintenance rate increase by almost 25 per cent over the last five years, said Howard. The expanded training and mentorship opportunities for families will come through a continuing partnership with the Manitoba Foster Family Network, which began implementing the mentorship programming series last year, she said.
“While every child is different, new foster parents can learn a lot from people in their communities who have experience working with the child welfare system, as well as the rewards and challenges of sharing their lives with children,” said Cathy Wiebe, board chair, Manitoba Foster Families Network. “This programming connects new and experienced foster parents to create a peer group at the same time as providing monthly workshops on a variety of relevant topics.”
The program expansion will come at the same time as the department begins work to ensure foster parents are getting the information they need from child welfare officials in a timely and accessible format, the minister said. Work has already started on providing plain language information on the appeal process for foster families. The department will undertake a thorough communications review in response to the 2011 children’s advocate report recommendations, said Howard, adding the review is expected to be complete next year.
The minister also announced her department has started working with child welfare authorities to establish common special rates and assessment criteria for foster children with special needs. While the review is underway, the department will work with child welfare agencies and authorities to respond to specific cases where there are exceptional needs of children, she said.
“We have increased funding for foster families by 25 per cent over the last five years because we are committed to children receiving the best care possible. Having a common rate structure and assessment process for foster children will ensure that foster families know what support they can count on from year to year, regardless which agency they work with or where they live in the province,” said Howard.