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An SOS oasis

December 4, 2012

Hands together

Children in BC’s foster system move on average seven times while they are in care, with some moving upwards of 30 times (see previous blog post). It is not hard to imagine the toll that such instability must take on children on top of the trauma of being removed from dangerous or highly dysfunctional homes.

The non-profit SOS Children’s Village in Surrey supports kids in foster care in the South Fraser region by providing them with stable, supportive homes. SOS BC also reaches out to children and families in the community by running learning clubs that provide both academic and
social assistance at the SOS facility and in schools. A learning club coordinator is on call to help children who live at the Village to prepare for exams.

Friday guitar and choir lessons, with an opportunity to perform and record DVDs, are offered to children of the Village and the successful music program expanded into the community in 2011. A big set of drums dominates the small room and other donated instruments are on display. Therapy in the form of jam sessions!

A certified therapist uses art and play to help children deal with emotions and resolve issues. SOS BC also assists children living in the Village or living in foster homes in the Fraser Region to attend camps and experience other recreational and cultural activities. Education and counselling support is provided to foster parents through monthly meetings at the SOS community centre. And a key therapy, neurofeedback which will be the subject of a subsequent blog post, is available to children in the Village and to clients from the community.

Aboriginal Celebration Kids 2009 (2)BC, like most other jurisdictions in the world, struggles to cope with caring for children. I spoke  with Corina Carroll, Program Director at SOS BC, and we touched on some of the challenges and failures of BC’s foster system.

The Ministry of Children and Family Development is one of those portfolios that no-one seems to want and one which, despite best intentions, no-one is able to fix. On average, Corina tells me, a new Minister is appointed every 18 months meaning that he or she just begins to learn the portfolio and then is gone. Ministers change and policies change with them.

Although there are many skilled and wonderful foster parents, the system does not support them adequately. The international SOS model trains people for three months to two years before they are permitted to care for children. In BC, the training is 53 hours. Training which is inadequate for foster parents dealing with kids with complex physical, mental or emotional health issues which often means foster parents are unable to cope and the child has to move again.

Corina states, “It all comes down to prevention. We shouldn’t just remove kids, we should look at how we can support the family to stay together, unless there are signficant safety issues. Young families, ill-equipped to be parents, do not receive support.” Corina used to be angry at these young parents until she started working with young, pregnant girls. “They want so desperately to love but they don’t have the tools. Maybe you foster both. The first 18 months is crucial to forming attachments,” she says. “We have to reach people earlier”.

While some children can move successfully through the foster system, poverty, mental, emotional and physical health, and addiction issues often mire generations in the same painful, revolving world. What we choose not to spend now in time and money, we pay for later. Taxpayers bear the costs of young people who do not get a proper education, who have problems with substance abuse or find themselves before the courts. The problems compound when they too become parents.

SOS BC gives the children within its circle a chance to thrive.

SOS BC is notable as it does not receive any direct government funding, instead relying on donations from generous businesses and individuals and some program fees to run its programs and maintain the Village. It subsidizes the rent paid by parents who live in the Village houses. SOS works closely with the Vancouver Aboriginal Children and Family Services Society which contributes funding for the care of aboriginal children in the SOS Village.

The organization also runs two great thrift stores. One at 3800 Moncton Street, Steveston (Richmond) opened in 1992, as a way to raise funds for the creation of an SOS Children’s Village, which as you will have read in the previous blog post helped in the building of SOS BC’s five houses. The second store opened in 2006 at 2319 West 41st Avenue, Kerrisdale (Vancouver) and is “chic” in style. If you would like to do some “good for the kids” and a little penny-wise Christmas shopping, check these two stores out. They also are happy to receive donations of certain goods as shown on the website.

SOS had its Christmas gala on top of Grouse Mountain last week and raised funds, but much more is needed. If you would like to know more about SOS BC or would like to support their programs, please visit their website or follow them on Facebook.

Please come back to visit.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. December 4, 2012 4:21 pm

    Love your recent SOS Children’s Village posts! Hope everyone will come out to the 5th Annual SOS Children’s Village BC Run @ Richmond Olympic Oval, Sunday, May 26, 2013. Details at – registration opens early in the New Year. It’s a great family event! Cheers :)

    • December 4, 2012 4:39 pm

      Thanks Lois, This would be a good focus for those New Year’s resolutions to get fit, lose weight and do good!

  2. Susila Bryant permalink
    December 4, 2012 3:27 pm

    Is there a website for the Kerrisdale store?


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