Alberta announces $24M in supports to bolster number of foster care families

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Alberta’s UCP government announced three new initiatives pegged at more than $23.6 million to support more foster care families in the province Tuesday.

Children and Family Services Minister Searle Turton said at a news conference in Edmonton the programs are aimed at helping create more stability for young people in care so they end up moving less often.

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“(It’s) really about recruiting additional foster care parents to help bolster the ranks of these amazing families,” said Turton.

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The new initiatives include $6.5 million over four years to cover the cost of five hours of counselling per year for  licensed foster home members in Alberta, beginning in November.

A referral program will pay $500 for every referral from current foster caregivers that leads to the creation of a new licensed home, costing an estimated $450,000 over four years.

And, starting Nov. 30, the government will start paying a “daily skill fee” or special rates to foster caregivers caring for youth 18 years old or older as part of the transition to adulthood (TAP) program. Turton said the $16.7-million initiative will help more people address additional costs and provide mentorship, support and stability for vulnerable young people up to the age of 22.

“There are real benefits to making sure that these relationships can continue, and we want to make sure that we can do everything in our power to make sure that that relationship is strengthened,” he said.

The moves come after a series of UCP changes that ultimately saw previous support programs replaced with TAP, increasing monthly maximum benefits but cutting off financial aid at the age of 22, instead of 24.

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Melissa Jones, CEO of the Alberta Foster and Kinship Association, said at the government announcement the new programs will improve the system, and covering some of the costs of counselling is “an important beginning” that will help address the unique stress foster caregivers can experience.

“Foster caregivers go above and beyond to provide safety and support for children and youth and it is essential that we continue to provide caregivers with the support they need so they can continue to provide love and care to the children and youth in their homes,” she said.

Turton said there’s been a decline in foster care parents over the last couple of years. In February, the province launched an awareness campaign with the hope of creating 100 additional foster care placements over the next year.

“We have seen a small uptick, but we’re hoping that with the announcement here today that we will cause a vast increase in the number of foster care parents,” he said, adding he is confident his ministry can handle any extra caseloads but would monitor any downstream effects.

Press secretary Ashli Barrett said in an email to Postmedia the government is still tracking how many Albertans decide to sign on because of the awareness campaign, but it has so far spurred more than 120 people to contact the government to learn more.

In 2021-22, 4,366 children were placed in foster care in Alberta. In 2022-23, on average every month there were  3,114 young people in foster care placements. As of March 21, there were 1,540 foster caregiver homes in the province.

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