Meet Our Foster Parents: Shelly Meehan
Meet Our Foster Parents: Shelly Meehan
Every child who walks through Shelly Meehan’s door is invited to paint a stone, which represents more than just beautifully painted, unique artwork. Each of these stones, cherished by Meehan for the last 31 years of her foster parenting journey, demonstrate unconditional love, support, and respect for the children for whom she has provided care.
These stones also act as the start of a conversation – the first step in welcoming each child into their new atmosphere and allowing the child to express themselves.
“(The stones) let’s them see lots of kids have been here and got to go home,” Meehan explained, who has cared for more than 1,000 children. “It gives them something to look forward to, and it let’s the older kids know I’ve got experience.
“They didn’t choose or pick me, so I have to prove myself to the families and show them that their kids are going to be loved and safe.”
As a foster parent, Meehan embodies the Tikinagan service model Mamow Obiki-ahwahsoowin, which means “Everyone working together to raise our children,” by opening her door open to the families of the children she cares for. She welcomes the families to reach out and stay connected with their children. She sends them pictures, information, and keeps the connection between the children and their families. On occasion, families have even come to her home for holiday meals.
“It’s important to show the kids that as adults you can all get along. It gives the kids security knowing they can comfortable knowing they will always have someone around to love them.”
Meehan’s three-decade long foster parenting career began with two girls in Sioux Lookout while she was a case aide for the Kenora-Rainy River Districts Child & Family Services. A few years later, she relocated to Ottawa where she was a foster parent with the Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa. In February 2010, after returning to Northwestern Ontario, she became a foster parent with Tikinagan Child and Family Services and continues to foster parent at her home in Dryden.
Meehan’s role in Tikinagan’s circle of care finds her working with Tikinagan staff regularly. Occasionally, there are challenges when working with northern communities due to the pandemic, internet connection, phones lines being down or other technological issues that can occur. These delays, noted Meehan, are a lesson in patience.
However, with her experience in being an advocate for the children, Meehan is on top of their needs and usually is already aware of upcoming appointments or purchases that need to be made for the children. Despite her self-sufficiency, she said she still feels like a part of the team. She is still able to access workers and get any information she needs. She said her Tikinagan workers are good about getting information to her and if they can’t access to the information or don’t have an immediate answer, they’ll find a way.
“Sometimes needing to get stuff done, it’s about going through the right avenues – but I am never really left hanging,” Meehan said. “It’s about a common mutual respect – you both have a job to finish.”
When asked what advice she would give to people thinking about becoming a foster parent, she said: “Be prepared, you have now taken on the world’s toughest job, but the most rewarding job.” She added that foster parents have to be able to think quick on their feet and when you need help, ask for help.
“The day they’re going home, it’s hard. Your hearts going to cry, but they goal is to get them home. There are days your heart will break, but at the end of the day, you know you made a difference. It may have been a hard day with struggles, or you have a really good day and you celebrate. At the end of the day, you know you made a difference.”
For the month of March, we are celebrating foster parents like Shelly Meehan for Foster Parent Appreciation Month. We are immensely grateful for the support she provides to our children. To learn more about being a foster parent go to https://www.tikinagan.org/our-services/foster-parenting/