More P.E.I. kids in group homes a concerning trend, says manager of children's services

The P.E.I. government says more and more Island children are being placed in group homes rather than with foster families.

The trend, which has developed over the past several years, has some government officials concerned. 

In 2014, there were 85 children living with foster families on the Island — that number has dropped to 74 children today. 

Over that same time period, the number of children living in provincial group homes has jumped from 26 to 35, with a third of those children 10 or younger. 

While the province's five group homes are run well, Kelly Peck, P.E.I.'s manager of children's services, said they inevitably provide less stability for children and are just simply not as ideal as foster homes. 

Rick Gibbs/CBC

"In our foster families, it is a home environment where you do have more of a traditional family setting, and they're cared for with minimizing some of those transitions and relationships," Peck said. 

"We'd always like to see our children in care, in a family-home setting. That's always preferred when at all possible."

We do recognize that's a problem. And that's why we have the huge emphasis right now on recruiting foster homes. — Kelly Peck

Kim MacPherson, New Brunswick's auditor general, has also flagged the same problems in that province.

MacPherson blamed a rise in behavioural challenges in children and a declining number of available foster homes for the growing number of children ending up in group homes in New Brunswick. 

Recruitment campaign

Peck said P.E.I. is dealing with the same two issues. 

To help curb the number of children placed in Island group homes, Peck said children's services will be working with P.E.I.'s Federation of Foster Families on a new foster-family recruitment campaign. 

Steve Bruce/CBC

The department's aim is to launch the recruitment campaign by the end of January 2020. 

"We do recognize that's a problem. And that's why we have the huge emphasis right now on recruiting foster homes," Peck said.

"So we can start to remove children from the group homes and start placing them in home-care settings, which would be in their best interests."

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