Leslie Johnston: Foster Care Social Worker
When we fail to meet these children’s needs at a young age, they often become the children we read about in the newspapers – involved in criminal activity, addictions, and other self-destructive behavior. Foster parents can only help these children if we give them the training, preparation, and support that they need.
Local 47 - Civil Service, Social Sciences Component
Leslie Johnston has seen firsthand the difference that a caring foster parent can make in the life of a child. Over the past 28 years working in child welfare – 20 of those in the foster care system – Leslie has been there for Manitoban foster children and the families who care for them.
For children who’ve experienced trauma within their own homes, and are apprehended for reasons of safety and protection, it’s essential there be somewhere for them to go where they can experience the security and affection of a “surrogate” family. It’s also essential that foster parents be trained in how to respond in a helpful, healing way to children in these circumstances, and that they be supported to “hang in there” with children when the going gets rough – which it often does!
“When we fail to meet these children’s needs at a young age, they often become the children we read about in the newspapers – involved in criminal activity, addictions, and other self-destructive behavior,” Johnston says. “Foster parents can only help these children if we give them the training, preparation, and support that they need.”
It’s Leslie’s job to find foster homes for children who have been abused, neglected or mistreated, or whose parents are simply unable to care for them for a period of time. There is a chronic shortage of foster homes in our province, particularly for children who have challenging behaviours or special needs, so a big part of her job is recruitment. Leslie also provides pre-service training and conducts background checks and thorough psycho-social evaluations of people who are interested in becoming foster parents. She provides guidance and direction to foster families once children have been placed, and monitors the home on a regular basis to ensure that provincial standards are maintained.
“To the extent that we are supported to do our job in recruiting and developing foster homes for children, we can avoid having children wait in hotel rooms or emergency shelters for placement in a foster home. We can make sure that foster parents are adequately equipped to meet the needs of traumatized children or troubled teens, so that placements do not “breakdown,” she says.
Such breakdowns can result in the child being re-traumatized by having to move again, and each time this happens it makes it harder and harder for the child to trust the adults who are trying to help. “All of society has not only a duty, but a vested interest in ensuring that foster children are well cared for.”