NIAGARA — Ann Godfrey and the social workers at Family and Children’s Services Niagara certainly see difficult situations of struggling families on a daily basis, but on the flip side they routinely have their spirits lifted by the heartwarming stories they hear from both foster parents and kids whose lives have been changed by the better.

Godfrey, director of development and public relations for FACS, said it’s not uncommon for young people who have gone through the child protective service to stress in their applications for bursaries that they probably wouldn’t be where they are today if not for the loving, supportive care of foster parents.

Likewise, Godfrey said the comments of foster parents about caring for children are typically inspiring.

“It never ceases to amaze me and it warms my heart when I hear foster parents talk of their experiences and how rewarding it is,” she said.

Those people who take in other people’s kids while FACS works with the parents to address problems at the home so they can be safety returned home often see children who can be frightened, angry and lacking confidence undergo a transformation when shown kindness, said Godfrey.

“Just seeing how those kids gain confidence, they gain trust, is what’s really rewarding,” she said. “That’s the real motivator.”

Folks at FACS are hoping more Niagara residents open up their homes and their hearts to vulnerable children needing what is typically temporary foster care, with the agency facing a pressing shortage of foster homes.

Most notably, there is a “desperate” need for foster homes for infants, said Godfrey; all the infant homes in Niagara are filled, and there’s a possibility that some babies needing care may have to be shipped off to other regions if people don’t step forward.

“We know there are many, many caring families out there in Niagara,” said Godfrey. “If (foster care) has ever crossed your mind, now is the time to call us because we really need you.

“We want to keep kids close to home, we want to keep them in Niagara,” she said.

Becoming a foster parent requires undergoing an application process than can last 12 weeks to six months, and mandatory training. FACS offers ongoing support and training, plus per diem financial support starting about $30. Virtually all child costs are also covered, from medical and dental to clothes, a spending allowance and mileage.

Respite care is also offered for foster parents wanting to take a vacation or go to appointments. Godfrey said potential foster parents who want to test the waters can try offering respite care for a weekend or so, or try their hand at fostering a baby.

“Take a chance, take that first baby step and think about fostering,” she said. “We want people to open the door a little bit.”

Right now, FACS has almost 500 kids in foster care but only 140 foster homes. “We want to close that gap,” said Godfrey.

She also urged people to suggest friends, family or acquaintances explore the idea of fostering, using the power of social media.

“Foster parents are so integral with our work with families,” said Godfrey. “Where would we be without them?

“They’re quite, unsung heroes. They do it because they want to help and it enriches lives.”

For more information, call 1-905-937-7731 or 1-888-937-7731.

Source: Niagara This Week