‘These kids need a voice’ (with video)

Former youth in care join foster parents in rally at Ministry of Children and Family Development office in Abbotsford

Protestors rally outside of the Ministry of Children and Family Development office on Cruickshank Street in Abbotsford on Tuesday morning.



Kearston Burton was placed in 34 group and foster homes over two years, starting at the age of 13.

In one home, she was fed nothing but instant noodles and was denied feminine hygiene products. In another, she was physically abused by her foster dad.

Burton said she tried to speak out about the abuse, but no one took her seriously.

She was placed with foster mom Tamara Smith of Abbotsford eight years ago, and there she says she found the love, support and compassion she needed.

Burton lived there until she “aged out” of the foster care system at 19. Now 23, she lives in Chilliwack with three kids of her own – ages two, three and five – and is soon to be married.

Burton and Smith were among caregivers, support workers and former youth in care who rallied outside of the Ministry of Children and Family Development office in Abbotsford – located on Cruickshank Street – on Tuesday morning.

Smith said it’s the first of several such rallies planned across the province to bring awareness to the rights of caregivers and kids in care, and bring changes to a system she said is not currently working.

She said the many good foster parents across the province are not acknowledged or paid accordingly for the hard work they do.

“Our caregivers, at the top end, make $2.08 an hour. At the bottom end, we make 63 cents an hour, and that is incredible stress to place on a family who’s caring for children that have to have very specialized love and care and commitment and patience. You can’t get patience for 63 cents an hour when you’re trying to make your bills.”

Smith said the 2,500 caregivers in the province are treated more like volunteers than professionals. They are not offered affordable health insurance programs, coverage for dental or optical care, or pensions – benefits offered to others in child-welfare roles.

She said foster parents are afraid to speak up because of fears they will lose their children in care.

Smith said one of the goals of the province-wide rallies is to garner support for foster parents and other caregivers to unionize.

She said that will not only ensure their protection from poor working conditions, but will lead to more stringent guidelines about who can take on such a role and better protect kids from negative situations.

Smith said she hopes the rallies also bring more awareness to the rights of youth in care.

“These kids needs a voice. They need a strong voice. They deserve more than for people to come in and rip them out of homes that they’re doing well in, and to even leave their pets behind,” Smith said.

Burton said she felt that when she spoke out about the abuses she was suffering, she was perceived as a liar.

“Youth that they consider, like me, high-risk, we are looked down upon. In their eyes, we don’t matter. We will slip through the cracks.”

She said kids in care need to be taken seriously when they speak out.

“We deserve to have a voice, and people need to start listening to us. We matter.”

A spokesperson from the Ministry of Children and Family development wrote, via email, that the province supports caregivers through a variety of services, including training, regional agenices and telephone support.

“We recognize and deeply appreciate the hard work and dedication of B.C.’s foster caregivers,” the statement said.

The group has started a website to draw attention to its cause. Visit caregiversunite.ca for more information.

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Hockey history in Surrey as Team India comes to play

Squad played its very first game in Canada on Tuesday against Surrey Falcons

Proposed coal project for Fraser Surrey Docks back in court

It could be months before the federal appeal court renders a decision

Minor injuries for firefighter struck outside South Surrey fire hall

Minor injuries for firefighter struck outside South Surrey fire hall

Surrey to hear news on Olympic softball qualifier bid next week

Decision, originally expected in September, was delayed by World Baseball Softball Confederation

Letters shed light on state of mind of mother accused of daughter’s murder

Trial of South Surrey’s Lisa Batstone begins in BC Supreme Court

VIDEO: Amazon to split second HQ between New York, Virginia

Official decision expected later Tuesday to end competition between North American cities to win bid and its promise of 50,000 jobs

Fear of constitutional crisis escalates in U.S.; Canadians can relate

Some say President Donald Trump is leading the U.S. towards a crisis

B.C.-based pot producer Tilray reports revenue surge, net loss

Company remains excited about ‘robust’ cannabis industry

Canada stands pat on Saudi arms sales, even after hearing Khashoggi tape

Khashoggi’s death at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul further strained Riyadh’s already difficult relationship with Ottawa

Feds pledge money for young scientists, but funding for in-house research slips

Canada’s spending on science is up almost 10 per cent since the Liberals took office, but spending on in-house research is actually down

Stink at B.C. school prompts complaints of headaches, nausea

Smell at Abbotsford school comes from unauthorized composting operation

Disabled boy has ‘forgiven’ bullies who walked on him in stream, mom says

A Cape Breton teen who has cerebral palsy was told to lie in a stream as other kids walked over him

Vancouver man must pay $22,000 after breaking strata rules

Peter Gordon took his fight over his rented condo to the civil resolution tribunal, but lost

B.C. cheese linked to 5 E. coli cases

People are asked to throw out or return ‘Qualicum Spice’ cheese

Most Read