May 20, 2019 6:03 pm

Controversy grows over PEI government’s treatment of long-time foster parents

As the demand for more foster parents continues to grow, the challenges facing one PEI couple is providing disturbing insight into an overlooked segment of foster care. Ross Lord reports.

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Concerns are growing in Prince Edward Island over the province’s foster care system.

A long-time foster couple says PEI Child and Family Services has shut them out. The husband and wife have opened their home to dozens of children over the past 13 years. Global News is prevented, by PEI legislation, from identifying the couple publicly.

They were awarded as outstanding foster parents in New Brunswick but, after moving, and continuing to foster in Prince Edward Island, they say they’ve been stymied.

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The trouble started when the couple applied to adopt three children they’d previously fostered, including a baby boy.

“He had also been diagnosed on the autism spectrum,” said the woman, identified in court documents as N.S. “You just have to do a little bit of reading to know how very, very important it is to keep kids under the same routine. And, that didn’t happen.”

They weren’t only prevented from adopting. They were also told they could no longer be foster parents.

The couple ended up locking horns with the PEI’s director of Child Protection, a conflict that escalated into the courts.

They lost a judicial review but, not before the director dropped a bombshell, suggesting that abuse N.S. suffered as a child played into the government’s actions.

READ MORE: B.C. foster parents say ministry blackballed them for speaking out

Her husband accuses the government of “holding her abuse against her. She was victimized twice in my books,” he said.

She says it’s a painful situation.

“I love to look after children and I still look after children, but every time somebody calls and asks me, I have to give them this story, ‘I’m sorry, but Social Services doesn’t deem us fit.'”

The Canadian Foster Family Association says disqualifying the couple on those grounds makes no sense.

CFFA president, Kevin Harris, says “I know, personally, individuals who have been through trauma in their own life, as children themselves, who are very amazing foster parents and/or adoptive parents.”

Harris says there’s high demand for foster homes across Canada, making it crucial the system function properly.

The PEI government won’t discuss individual cases. In an emailed statement, it says Child and Family Services “welcomes all adoption applications.”

The department says it “would deny an application if it’s not safe for the child, or if the placement would not promote their well-being.”

READ MORE: Homeless youth linked to foster care system: report

The couple has a growing number of supporters, including Anne Van Donkersgoed, of Valleyfield, PEI.

“What happened to their little boy, the child they had in their home, is totally wrong,” she said.

Van Donkersgoed, who claims she’s also been wronged by PEI Child and Family Services, has started an online fund-raiser for the couple.

“We need them to be supported, not thrown out like the trash, like they’ve been.”

The pair is struggling to pay off roughly $70,000 in legal bills while looking to restore their reputation.

“I think at this point we would really like to have our names cleared,” N.S. said. “There are still so many, whether they like us or not, there are still so many children out there that need homes.”

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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