The Nova Scotia government is dedicating up to $34 million toward redesigning the province's foster care system over the next three years, with the hope it will encourage more people to foster.
"Foster parents are among Nova Scotia's most dedicated volunteers, and we need to ensure they are well-supported," Community Services Minister Karla MacFarlane said in a release Wednesday.
"Right now, Nova Scotia needs more foster parents, and it is my hope that a redesigned system will encourage more people to consider this calling."
Currently, there are approximately 1,000 children in the care of the province and about 630 foster families, according to the Department of Community Services.
In March, advocates and former foster children called for an overhaul of the system. The plan for redesign will consist of both long-term and immediate changes.
One of the immediate changes will be the amount of money each foster parent receives a day for each foster child.
Foster families in the province are currently given per diems ranging from $19 to $53. The redesign will mean all current foster parents will receive an immediate per diem increase of $15.
The redesign will also involve engaging youth currently or formerly in care to hear their concerns and ideas, as well as implementing a new system model that provides for a stronger community of support for foster families and children in care.
There will be new foster care placement types, including a new category for enhanced institutional care for children with specialized needs, as well as improved communication and supports for foster parents during child welfare investigations.
Marina Kepling, president of the board of directors of the Federation of Foster Families of Nova Scotia, said being a foster parent is both rewarding but challenging, so she's glad to see more support.
"It is encouraging and very much appreciated to see this work in support of foster families move forward," Keeping said in the release.
The province said there will also be focus on preserving a child's culture while in foster care and that concerns and recommendations of First Nations and African Nova Scotian communities will be prioritized to ensure the individual needs of all children are met.
In March, the province announced it would spend $5 million on a new program called Because You Care Foster Family Initiative, which is aimed at helping recruit 500 more full-time foster families.
Once the system redesign is fully implemented, there will be an annual increase in the foster care system budget of $16.7 million.
"Hopefully, this announcement will be a positive step towards recruitment and retention," Gary Landry, executive director of Federation of Foster Families of Nova Scotia, said in the release.