Couple makes a difference in the life of sone special needs girl
Melody and Scott Morton-Ninomiya are careful to make sure their three-year-old daughter has an ongoing relationship with her biological parents. Photo by Danette Dooley/Special to The Telegram
There's no mistaking that children live in Melody and Scott Morton-Ninomiya's home.
Their living room resembles a room, though tidier and smaller, in a daycare centre.
Books, colourful toys and pretend musical instruments have been placed on various shelves but aren't quite out of sight.
They are also in easy reach of the couple's three children.
Melody and Scott have a seven-year-old daughter, five-year-old son and three-year-old daughter.
The three-year-old girl is a foster child who came to them about 2 1/2 years ago, after she was released from hospital.
It's the only home she's ever known.
Both Scott and Melody are originally from Kitchner, Ontario.
They moved to St. John's six years ago while working with the Mennonite Central Committee.
Their work here was focused on increasing awareness of and offering services in the areas of community mediation, restorative justice and conflict resolution.
Scott currently works with the Department of Justice while Melody has recently completed her master of education degree.
"We always talked about becoming foster parents, but when we were moving from Ontario to here it didn't seem like the right time," Melody says.
Once settled in Newfoundland and with two children of their own, Melody and Scott decided to open their home and hearts to a third child.
As a special-needs child from another culture, their foster daughter has overcome many challenges thus far in life.
"They've really embraced her. They think of her as their sibling for sure," Melody says of the couple's biological children.
Fostering has many benefits, Scott says.
"We've had a couple of tough years, but the time and energy and love we've invested in her just shows every day," he says.
Supports are available, Melody says, to ensure their three-year-old gets the help she needs.
"They didn't assume that one of us would be at home full-time, so we were given respite care to take care of a child with special needs," Melody says.
Although their foster child is in continuous care and will be with Scott and Melody until she's an adult, it's important to this couple that she continues to have an ongoing relationship with her biological parents.
"We do make sure we stay in touch with them because the bottom line is she is their daughter and one of these days she's going to say, "Who am I?' and 'Where did I come from?' So we need to have that connection with her parents so we can help her figure that out," Scott says.
Like their two oldest children, their foster child also calls Melody and Scott, Mommy and Daddy.
She does the same with her biological parents, albeit it in another language.
Being placed in foster care in a St. John's home means the little girl has an opportunity to access the health care she needs.
"I know they're sad that she's not living with them but, under the circumstances, they're happy being able to maintain some contact with her and get weekly updates," Melody says.
While he admits fostering has its challenges, Scott says Child, Youth and Family Services and the Newfoundland and Labrador Foster Families Association are there to help whenever needed.
National Foster Families Week wraps up today.
Foster Families are the heart of the foster care program, says Patricia McGrath, chair of the provincial foster families association.
The week is set aside to recognize the contribution made by foster families and to commend them for making a difference in the life of a child, McGrath says.
"Foster Family Week recognizes and celebrates foster families who accept the responsibility of caring for children and working as part of a team for family reunification," McGrath says.
According to Diane Molloy, executive director of the provincial association, there are approximately 600 children in foster care in the province.
However, the need for more homes is still great, she says.
Molloy encourages anyone who has considered becoming a foster parent to contact her provincial association or the Child, Youth and Family Services office or their area.
Melody says if there were more foster parents in this province it would mean the entire system would work more smoothly.
"We're just taken on one child for now. We may take on another down the road. But for us, this has been a very natural transition," she adds.
Her husband agrees.
"Having somebody not born in your family come into your family is different but you grow together. I can't imagine not having her as part of our family now," Scott says.
For further information on fostering contact the Newfoundland and Labrador Foster Families Association at 709 754 0213, email email@example.com or visit www.nlffa.com. firstname.lastname@example.org