TORONTO — Sheryl Ederman, manager of foster care and adoption at Jewish Family & Child, wants every kid to have a permanent seat at the dinner table.
The agency’s goal is for all children, even older ones, to be connected to a family, she said.
“We have a strong belief in permanency. The agency should be there for support, but not as family.”
Currently, the agency is trying to make plans for about 20 kids, ages five through 18, Ederman said, and she hopes members of the Jewish community will step forward to help.
“That does not necessarily mean [an older kid] living with the family, but it does mean having a strong family connection.”
Ederman said that after one youth in care got a job recently, she told her worker that although she had a good first day, she was distressed after talking to human resources.
“They asked her for an emergency contact and she had no one to name. She had a wonderful relationship with her worker, but she should have family. We need to develop family for these kids.”
Adoption has changed, she said. Until two years ago, Crown wards who had any contact with their biological family could not be adopted, but “Crown wards are now eligible for adoption. Once the agency gets wardship of a child, we can begin to make permanent plans.”
When it comes to older kids, community members who want to help have a number of options.
“There are a few levels of choices, such as adoption, a lifelong connection, or a legal guardian.”
She said there are about 50 potential adoptive parents on the agency’s waiting list, but most want young kids.
“People have to be open to building families differently. These families have been contacted about adopting older kids, and some have been receptive.
“Now we have to follow up, and try to figure out who could fit with what family. We have to find a common thread and try to start with the right match.”
One 13-year-old boy, Tyler, for example, is a sports fanatic, and plays basketball with this foster siblings. “Tyler would fit in well with an active family of his own, so he can develop a strong sense of belonging.”
Jacob, 15, is outgoing and has a lot of friends at school, but has struggles focusing in class. He was recently diagnosed with a learning disability. “His foster parents are very supportive, but he requires a more permanent arrangement to help him succeed.”
Allison, 16, loves to bake and she works at a cupcake shop on the weekends. She hopes to open her own bakery one day. “She has lived at the same foster home since she was nine, but [recently] was told her foster family is moving without her. She needs a permanent place.”
Fostering children is a short-term solution, Ederman said.
“We want kids to be in foster care as long as it takes to find a permanent connection, even if it is the foster parents. Kids need structure, routine, predictability and someone out there who cares.”
The first connection they seek is family members or close friends of the child, she said.
“When a family is struggling and says they have no one to care for their child, they could be ashamed or estranged from other family members. We have had aunts and uncles come forward and say, ‘If I only knew that my niece was in foster care… why didn’t anyone call me?’ We actively search for these people to see if they can step up,” Ederman said.
“Kids need to be in their own community, whether they are unaffiliated or Orthodox. If a non-Jewish family member or friend meets the needs of the Jewish child, we will consider that as well. Our goal is for the child to be with someone who loves them.”
The agency realizes that some kids need support, and even with those who have a lifelong connection with a family, the agency remains involved, said Ederman. “We could build a plan with provisions such as tuition. There is a lot of different support available.”
For more information, call (416) 638-7800 and ask for intake.