“The kids who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving of ways.”
Since 1999, Carpe Diem Treatment Foster Homes has provided loving foster care to emotionally distressed children in the Greater Toronto Area.
The agency was founded by a retired school teacher named Jim Lewis. The current Executive Director is Tyler Green who has been with Carpe Diem for a number of years serving different roles.
“Jim saw a need in creating an agency that would help kids who were falling through the cracks,” says Tyler Green. “They don’t have a huge support system, their biological family isn’t able to give them support and a foster home can teach them to be functioning members of society.”
Carpe Diem works closely with Children’s Services offices in Ontario as well as Children’s Aid. From birth to 18 years of age they place over 100 children in 70 foster care homes.
The children receiving assistance from Carpe Diem have faced abuse, neglect, and abandonment while also dealing with issues such as attention deficit disorder, Tourette’s Syndrome, developmental delays, autism, and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Many have grown up in the foster system.
Foster care aims to put them on the right path to future success. To achieve this, Tyler says, “There are two main things we look for in a foster parent: tolerance and compassion.”
When foster parents provide the children with daily routines, nurturing talents, love and good friendships, these children grow up with the necessary life skills and believe that they matter.
The goal is to build their resilience to prepare them for life.
The biggest challenge for Carpe Diem is in finding the right match between families and children. Following a preliminary meeting and background check, a rigorous evaluation is done which includes a visit to the potential foster home to examine it for safety and overall appearance.
Once the family and home is approved, the child is moved in a sensitive manner while being evaluated by the agency afterwards to ensure a smooth transition.
The child would be taught all aspects of life skills from making toast to taking the G1 driver's test.
“Foster parenting gives these kids a template of what other families look like,” says Tyler. “They come from chaotic situations, loving mom or dad, but not being able to live with them.”
One example is Danny who came to Carpe Diem in 1999 after being bounced from different foster homes.
He was a skinny child with glasses who got into a lot of trouble at school and moved back and forth from his biological home.
Jim Lewis was immediately drawn to him. Thanks to their strong relationship, Danny is now in his 30s, employed, has a supportive social network and is still closely connected with the agency.
There are times however when the foster home is not a good match for the child and they need to be moved from it. It’s at these times when their resilience is really tested.
“If a child has to move, we explain to them that stuff happens,” says Tyler. “We ask them what they want to do next, where they want to go from here - empowering them by putting the decision making into their hands.”
As Tyler says, “They need to realize that bumps come, but as long as they keep getting up everyday afterwards and moving forward, they can work through it.”
For more information on Carpe Diem Treatment Foster Homes and to inquire about becoming a foster parent, visit www.carpediem.ca, on Facebook and Twitter.
Photos from top to bottom: a bell which greets visitors to the main offices of Carpe Diem Treatment Foster Homes in Brampton, Ontario; Tyler Green, Executive Director; Danny MacDonald, a former foster child and friend to Carpe Diem; a hand-stitched sign celebrating the agency's anniversary (Janet Fanaki)