It all started 18 years ago, when Shannon and Jonathan Young received a phone call about a 12-year-old girl who needed a home. This was the Young family’s introduction into the world of foster care, and this young girl was the first of over 35 children whom the Youngs have been able to love and support over the years.
BGCC’s Foster Care program began in 1993. Foster families provide a temporary, stable home environment for children and youth, newborn to 17 years old, who are in the care of Alberta Child and Family Services and are unable to reside with their family.
Having two young children of their own when they became foster parents, Shannon and Jonathan began fostering because of their strong belief that “all children have the right to a family where their basic needs are provided and where they are loved and cared for.”
Over the years, the children whom the Youngs have cared for have had different needs, depending on why they came into the care of Alberta Child and Family Services. Of these needs, Shannon says, “the most important is family.”
Shannon believes fostering has provided her family with “lots of opportunities to learn and grow and stretch.” The Youngs have five biological children, ranging in age from 10-21, who have been part of a foster family for most, if not their whole lives. “This hasn’t always been easy for them, but I do believe they have learned a lot of things, including empathy, patience, kindness, tolerance and forgiveness. We have had to work together through some difficult times, and have seen the rewards of those efforts.”
Although fostering has come with its challenges, Shannon explains how being part of the BGCC Foster Care program has been a huge advantage to her and her family. “Being a foster parent with Boys and Girls Clubs of Calgary has made me a better foster parent, and it’s also made me a better parent. BGCC provides very relevant and current training; the support and training they provide is so valuable, and it has made a difference in the way I parent.”
BGCC provides many resources to support foster families, including access to an attachment resource specialist who provides consultation services and learning strategies to help with particular behaviours the children may have, 24-hour on-call support for all foster families, foster parent retreats and conferences, and access to relevant workshops and seminars in Calgary and area.
When looking back at the 18 years they have been fostering, the biggest reward for Shannon and Jonathan has been seeing the growth and change in the children. “When they arrive on your doorstep, that child is very different from the one that leaves your home after a period of time. When a child has been loved and nurtured and cared for, they almost look different – it just changes who they are,” says Shannon. “We would encourage others to become foster parents because children need families. Every child deserves the right to a family where there is love and safety.”
There is great need for foster families like the Youngs. BGCC is looking for people who are passionate about giving back to their community, who feel that they are good parents and have something to offer, and who have a stable family life where they can accept a child into their home. If you are interested in becoming involved in our Foster Care program, or know someone who might be, contact us!