This Campbellton family has fostered nearly 30 children and is hoping more help

This Campbellton family has fostered nearly 30 children and is hoping more help

Fostering children may not always be easy but one foster family says it's a rewarding experience even as fewer New Brunswickers are stepping up to help children in need.

Raymond Englehart, the president of the New Brunswick Foster Families Association, and his wife, Huguette, have helped raise 28 foster children over the past 25 years.

There have been challenges in the last quarter century, but Englehart said he sees them as positive.

"There was never a day that I hated fostering or hated a kid," said Englehart. 

"I hated behaviour but never never the kids, never the child."

Englehart's comments come just days after Attorney General Kim MacPherson released her annual report, which highlighted a decreasing number of foster families and the province's growing reliance on group homes.

MacPherson said the number of foster homes has dropped to 397 in 2018 from 565 in 2014-15.

At the same time, the number of children under 10 going into group homes has more than doubled

MacPherson said issues in group homes, including a lack of clear standards and high staff turnover, can negatively affect children in the province's care.

Serge Bouchard/Radio-Canada

"Poor management of care for these children can have disastrous consequences, contribution to suicide attempts, addiction, long-term mental health challenges and homelessness," MacPherson told a committee of MLAs this week.

"Their future outcomes may depend on the care they receive as a temporary or permanent ward of the province."

Englehart said his group is trying to increase the number of foster homes in the province.

"All children in Canada have the right to be with a safe and nurturing family," said Englehart. 

"That's our goal."

Englehart said he's never worked in a group home, so he doesn't have first-hand knowledge of their methods.

But he said foster homes offer a more family-like atmosphere.

"As for a group-home setting … it's shift work and when they're done their shifts they go home," said Englehart. 

"We have no home to go to. We keep them [24/7]. So if little Johnny has a problem at 3:00 in the morning that he can't sleep. Well, we have to solve that issue and then he goes back to sleep."

'Safe and nurturing family'

Englehart and his wife first became foster parents after taking care of a friend's foster children as they went away for a weekend.

He said there were always children in their home anyway, so it made sense for them.

He said it's been a positive experience and he keeps in touch with many of the children he helped raise even into their adulthood.

"They call us up on a regular basis and ask for advice for their own children," said Englehart. 

"Or thank us for putting them [on] the right path."

Listen to Raymond Englehart talk about why he became a foster parent and why he hopes more people volunteer to help children.