Making A Difference: Celebrating 10 Years as Parent Therapists

After 10 years, being foster parents with Quinte Children’s Homes (what we call Parent Therapists) isn’t a job as much as it’s just the way family has come together for Justin Sear and Shannon Crosbie-Sear.

Aged 22 and 25 when they first started with QCH, both say that being a Parent Therapist has shaped who they’ve become as adults.

Becoming Parent Therapists a Big Adjustment

Originally from the Quinte area, Justin and Shannon were looking for a way to move back. “We were recent graduates living and working in Toronto; we wanted meaningful work that would bring us closer to our own families,” Shannon explained.

QCH offered a solution that could give them the quality of life they were looking for. Justin stays home full-time to support their four foster kids, while Shannon works part-time with another organization, helping youth with physical and emotional disabilities with daily activities.

“We went from a small apartment in Toronto to a small house with four kids within a month,” Shannon said, recalling the dramatic adjustment. “But now, when I come home from work, I’m coming home. It’s not a job for me; these are our kids.”

Justin estimates that they’ve worked with 40 kids over the last decade. “In addition to long-term placements, we’ve provided relief care for other Parent Therapists. We’ve also had a number of temporary placements where we work with families to get the kids back home, and help with one-to-one staffing in other [QCH] homes.”

Justin says being a Parent Therapist forces you to quickly become more responsible. “You grow from being just a single person thinking about yourself, to always thinking about the kids.”

Foster Parents Need Realistic Understanding of Work Involved

“The benefit of being a Parent Therapist is easy: Seeing the kids succeed in what they want makes it meaningful.” said Justin. “It’s not easy work, but people who’ve been doing this for a while have been around long enough to really make a difference.”

Shannon says she appreciates the benefits of being a Parent Therapist: Making a difference for the kids, working from home and setting your own schedule, as well as the great connections you make with other community-based organizations. However, she also cautions that being a Parent Therapist is a significant commitment.

“If you change your mind after a year, it’s the kids who will feel the consequences,” she noted.

“If someone wants to be a Parent Therapist, they need to see exactly what we do,” Justin agreed. “There aren’t many people willing to make the commitment once they see how much work it actually is.”

Shannon noted that, if possible, it’s a great idea to start as staff and help out so you can learn about being a Parent Therapist, as well as programs and training. “These kids often have significant mental health issues, even trauma, so you need to adjust your parenting style and have the right skills to help them,” she explained.

“We have friends with kids who don’t understand some of the techniques we use,” Shannon continued. “Like when there’s an incident in the grocery store; we try to work through it in the store instead of just leaving.”

Justin and Shannon say there’s no question that becoming a Parent Therapist is a lifestyle change, but they wouldn’t change it for anything.

“We haven’t travelled much and missed out on some of the 20-something stuff; we have four other people to consider in every plan we make,” said Shannon. “However, it’s made us stronger as a couple and we know we can parent together, which will be good when we have our biological kids !”

To learn more about being a Parent Therapist, contact us directly at 613-968-8569.

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