From The Hamilton Spectator: 

By Kezia Royer-Burkett

Sun., March 21, 2021

Foster parents among the pandemic’s unsung heroes

As the world praises and celebrates essential workers for their perseverance during this unprecedented time, I can’t help but notice not all essential workers are recognized publicly by the government, media or the general public. Foster parents are among the unsung heroes of the pandemic and they need to be recognized as essential workers who provide a safe environment for children in need.

Children were still being placed in foster care during the pandemic’s peak. And very rightly so, regardless of a pandemic, if a child’s welfare is in danger, then they need to be helped. The children who went into foster care during this pandemic came from shelters, family members’ homes, unsafe living conditions etc. and without being COVID-19 tested or self-isolating for 14 days.

The prime minister and premier urged the public to stay home, not visit family or friends, and only leave home for essential purposes. Throughout the many lockdowns in Ontario over the past year, in-person access visits were still in effect. In October 2020, when Peel and Toronto were in lockdown, a 61-year-old foster parent was forced to bring the four foster children in her home to two separate homes for access visits. Then the children returned to her house with no isolation period, testing etc., placing this foster parent in potential danger and with no one to advocate on her behalf.

Some of the most vulnerable people in society — children in care and elderly foster parents — were exposed to multiple households, people and places with no consideration for prevention or COVID-19 safety measures in place. When the most recent lockdown took place in January, foster parents in Ontario were still required to take children in care to in-person access visits.

The child service workers and family service workers at children’s aid and CCAS empathize with foster parent concerns. Still, they insist all foster parents and foster care providers adhere to the judges’ ruling and orders. To keep their jobs in good standing, foster parents took children from Brampton to Toronto, Ajax to Mississauga, Toronto to Shelburne and throughout Ontario for in-person access visits. They had to disregard measures such as staying home, even though they were constantly bombarded with the narrative from the news, leaders and even their family members.

At the beginning of the pandemic, most in-person access visits were suspended and virtual visits came into effect. But for children’s aid to discharge a child, in-person access visits are mandatory. So to me, it seems that in-person access visits became compulsory after the initial lockdown ended because the government cares more about saving money than considering the well-being of vulnerable people in our society.

With good-natured hearts, foster parents welcomed children from all over Ontario into their homes and prayed their good deeds wouldn’t repay them with contracting COVID-19. Thankfully, none of the foster parents I know contracted COVID-19, despite having children enter their home during the peak of the pandemic.

If we want to see some of the most vulnerable people in our society protected, we must speak up and unite. The vulnerable people in our community will face further exposure to COVID-19 if someone doesn’t speak up and advocate for their fundamental human rights. All Canadians need to be considered when plans are devised and enforced to reduce the further spread of COVID-19. Not just the ones who can afford and have the capability to advocate for themselves.

It’s easy to make decisions for other people’s households when it has no bearing on your personal life or family. But it is the responsibility of the people in power and leadership in Canada to make decisions that protect everyone, especially the vulnerable. I can’t tell a judge how to do their job, and I am not a legal or political expert, but I know the golden rule of life: treat others how you want to be treated. I hope this provides a perspective and shows how decision-makers need to consider every Canadian.

Thank you to all the foster parents who have opened their homes and risked exposure to COVID-19 to provide a safe home for a child in need. Your service is appreciated. All foster parents are heroes in my eyes.

The above link will take you to the Bruce Grey Public Health website where all the information sent by the agency is available.

These include the      INFOGRAPHIC

and the link to the YouTube presentation - Reopening and Riskiness

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