Meet Our Foster Parents: Serenity Kashuba

Just a few months into her new role as a Foster Parent with Tikinagan Child and Family Services, Serenity Kashuba was thrown a curve ball.

The pandemic was riding another wave of high cases across Northwestern Ontario — preventing children from returning to their communities and families due to lockdowns in several First Nations.

Planned to stay just a few weeks, Kashuba and her husband, Kelly, continued caring for a seven-year-old boy longer than expected.

“I know it was really hard for him to leave,” explained Kashuba. “He told us it was the first time he really belonged somewhere. But I know he’s in a really good place now and he’s home. We’re really happy about that and he’s one I’ll never forget.”

The relationships Foster Parents build with children who come into their home is special. And while the goal is to see children reunite with their families, it is often the Foster Parents who have the hardest time with children returning home. 

“It’s very bittersweet,” explained Kashuba. “You get really excited for them to go back to their families, and they get excited as well. It’s totally what we want and what we strive for, but at the same time, we kind of know…we won’t see them again.

“You never know how long they’re going to be here. It’s just a matter of having compassion, love, and empathy and understanding. I think that goes a long way with the children that come into care.”

Adopted at birth, Kashuba, now 45, witnessed first-hand the benefits of caring for children as her mother fostered for more than 25 years. Over the years, she watched all the children come through her home, admiring her mother’s growth. 

Becoming a Foster Parent with Tikinagan was something she could do to follow in her footsteps. Now her house is just as busy. Since becoming a Foster Parent last spring with Tikinagan, Kashuba has taken in nine children.

“It’s been a very rewarding for both of us,” Kashuba said of her foster parenting experience.

Supporting families in Thunder Bay is one of Kashuba’s passions. She sees her role as a Foster Parent as one of the many services offered in the city, which is part of the Tikinagan service model, Mamow Obiki-ahwahsoowin, which means “everyone working together to raise our children.”

“It comes down to the family unit as a whole. I do this work because I want to see not only the children thriving, but to be able to watch everybody come together to help the families – mom and dad, and extended families as well – is really rewarding.

“It’s really great that we can all work together to provide the best care and life for the children and the families.”

As a part of Tikinagan’s Foster Parent Appreciation Month, Kashuba, along with the more than 370 foster parents across the agency’s 30 First Nations and urban communities, are being recognized by the agency for their commitment to raising children.  

She was highlighted by Tikinagan staff for her commitment to her foster children.

“I was really touched,” she Kashuba of the honour. “I feel like I do work pretty hard to give the kids the best life we can give them, but I never expected this. I was pretty tearful, actually.”

Her Tikinagan Child Care Worker, said that Kasuba cares for children like they’re her own. 

“She truly cares about the children that come through her home,” said her worker. “She shows them so much love and care, devoting her time and attention to them.”

“I have always admired her love, for foster children and I have seen the love the children return to her as well,” added Pearl Helton, another Tikinagan Residential Care Worker.

Tikinagan has a Residential Services Unit focused on developing a range of foster care options for children and youth who need to come into Tikinagan care. This unit offers programs and services to foster parents to assist them in providing the best possible environment for children.

Tikinagan provides foster parents with orientation on the role of a Tikinagan foster parent, ongoing training and education, emergency support and crisis intervention 24 hours a day, and respite care options. As well, financial reimbursement by a daily rate for regular food and accommodation expenses, as well as allowances for special expenses such as clothing, school recreation and health care.