Joyce Barrett and her husband Harold began fostering in 1952, for Toronto Public Agency when their sons Bob and Jimmy were 6 and 4 respectively. The Barrett family fostered over 200 children from infants to teens. Everyone was welcome into the Barrett family.
Many of the children had special needs or were medically challenged but nothing that couldn’t be conquered by love and attention. Joyce and Harold adopted Mark one of their foster boys at age 10. Joyce and Harold continued to foster for 47 years together and when Harold passed away in 1999 Joyce continued to foster for another 13 years.
Joyce’s fostering career has seen 8 Executive Directors come and go. She fostered in the days when a public health nurse would come to their home to monitor the care of an infant. In those early pioneer days of fostering Joyce remembers receiving one dollar a day for each child. When asked what would surprise her most about her early days of fostering she recalls that Foster Parents were not allowed to talk to potential adoptive parents.
Rather children were dressed up and placed on the front porch or steps, and the prospective adoptive family would drive by and get out and look at the child. If they liked the child the child left with them.
Joyce has many memories and experiences in fostering. They include tremendous rewards, some challenges and a few worrisome moments. When asked what was her scariest moment as a Foster Parent she recalled the time a dear 8 year old boy tried to strangle her with a skipping rope in front of the child’s worker.
Joyce describes her most challenging times in fostering as preparing children to leave her home to move on to an adoptive home or to return to their family. As always Joyce feels this challenge from the child’s perspective, and emotional, and often confusing time. As for the rewards Joyce found this a hard question to answer as there have been so many rewards. But when pressed Joyce concludes that children and youth graduating from school is one of the greatest rewards.
- Never forget why you chose your career…it’s about the children.
- Always be respectful and sensitive to the children. Return their calls as quickly as you can.
- Communication with Foster Parents is very important.
- Keep active, or you will rot.
- Never ever lose you sense of humour.
- And most importantly… Listen to the children, even when they are not talking.