Foster parents in Manitoba have formed an association to advocate for changes. 

President Jamie Pfau says they are looking for more support from the province. 

“And what that looks like is, primarily, we would like a pre-service training program that is systematic. It is evaluated, it's rigorously tested,” explains Pfau. “Manitoba is one of the only jurisdictions in the world that doesn't require a foster parent pre-service training program. Many jurisdictions create this training program as a way to promote placement stability, to educate foster parents on not only how to respond to the needs of the children and to build capacity, but also what our rights as foster parents are, where we can go to seek advocacy, where we can go to seek support.” 

Having been a foster parent for 13 years, Pfau says there have been many times when she felt isolated and without a voice. Now, she is working with hundreds of other foster parents to be heard and to help create change for children in care.

Along with pre-service training, foster parents across the province are also looking for an increase in rates.

Foster parents in Manitoba are receiving an average of $9,000 annually per child, while Statistics Canada reported in November of 2023 that it costs over $17,000 per year to raise one child.  

“The average rate in Manitoba is $25 a day,” she says. “And this is supposed to cover all of the costs associated with raising a child in care.” 

Prices have gone up significantly for everything from food to clothing, transportation, wellness programming and therapies, and sports. 

“What we have found, when I did a national scan of all the basic maintenance rates in Canada, is that we are not only the lowest in the country, but we're the longest to go without a raise. These are rates based back in 2012, and 12 years ago the world was a different place. We were pre pandemic. Of course, things still cost money, but not nearly as much as it costs now. So, what we're seeing is a lot of foster homes are closing or they're downsizing. Myself, we have downsized. We used to have four children, we now have one because we just can't afford it, we're losing money. It's very costly. So, we definitely need an increase in the basic maintenance but also our fee for service.” 

Pfau says the association hears this is a difficult time for foster parents in Manitoba, wanting to continue supporting children in foster care but feeling unsupported.

Jamie Pfau, President of the Manitoba Foster Parents Association. (Photo submitted)Jamie Pfau, President of the Manitoba Foster Parents Association. (Photo submitted)

“I'm a PhD candidate in Community Health Sciences, and for the last decade, all of my research has been parenting, child welfare, foster parenting. It's been in this wheelhouse. So, I have been comparing Manitoba to other provinces in the country but also Canada to other countries in the world and we have a lot of room for improvement, especially here in Manitoba. I think that’s why our association has taken off so successfully and so quickly, because there are many foster parents in Manitoba who are feeling let down and alone and isolated and frustrated and heartbroken. We're hoping to put an end to all of those negative feelings associated with fostering and really just focusing on supporting foster parents to promote positive outcomes for children and youth in care.” 

The association is connecting with provincial politicians, the government, explaining their position and providing information on how to better support foster parents across the province. 

“We plan to have dozens of foster parents who are going to speak at the Legislative Review Committee on the Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth Act. We don't have a date set for that, but we are in the process of helping foster parents to craft their speeches and make sure they get to share their voice. And we're sending out letters to other MLA's and even to the federal government in order to promote our efforts and to hopefully get more support.” 

Pfau says they also have a youth advisory committee. 

“As foster parents, we know that oftentimes the children in care are the last, or not even at the table. So, we really want to promote their voice and their experience because it may seem to the public like this group of people just want more money. But really what it is, is it's money for these children to put them in hockey, to put them in an art class, to put them in a program, to help access therapy, to better their lives, to promote positive outcomes.” 

Pfau says it is important that all foster parents get the support they need, regardless of where they live, so they can better support the children in care. 

Jamie Pfau says the Manitoba Foster Parents Association is advocating for changes to help equip foster parents to provide support for children in care. (Photo submitted)Jamie Pfau says the Manitoba Foster Parents Association is advocating for changes to help equip foster parents to provide support for children in care. (Photo submitted)

The Manitoba Foster Parents Association was formed in November of 2023 by Jean Choiselat, who also registered the name and created a Facebook group for the association. Pfau says the group has grown exponentially. 

“There's 400 already and growing. I will say the vast majority, probably 85% of those, are foster parents. We do have some respite providers. We also have former youth in care, so adults now, but they often refer to themselves as child welfare alumni or foster child alumni. So, we have several of those as well, and then also other community groups or members who are child welfare adjacent are in there as well.”