The Foster Family Coalition of the NWT has a new set of wheels.
Decked out with pictures of the murals that now cover the coalition’s building, the bus – which seats about 23 people – is helping the non-profit provide much-needed transportation for children to on-the-land programming outside the city.
“What we’d been doing is renting school buses and having them drop off and pick up, but then having staff to get youth back if there was an emergency,” said Tammy Roberts, executive director of the coalition.
“This is just way better. And not only that, all of our kids love having ownership of something. It belongs to the organization, so it belongs to the youth.”
Each summer since 2003, the coalition has operated a five-week outdoor adventure camp – Camp Connections – at a site 57 km down the Ingraham Trail from Yellowknife.
The camp caters to kids in foster and adoptive families. According to Roberts, the aim is to provide stability for children who are often in unpredictable home environments.
“Kids that are involved in social services – whether they’re at home or in care – there tends to be a lot of moving around,” she said.
“That can cause great stress and trauma for kids.
“The reason for having our spot out there and having it kid-friendly is it provides predictability and structure to youth.”
The coalition purchased the bus in time for its camp in August this year, and put it to use transporting campers right away.
Roberts said the kids already “love it.”
“Just going on a trip together takes about an hour to get out to camp,” she said. “We’ve got some playlists, the kids sing. It’s that whole being together and creating time that we like.”
The new wheels could allow the coalition to expand its services and programs.
For example, the organization is now offering childcare to foster and adoptive caregivers during PD days at schools, taking kids to the camp site for the day.
Staff have used the vehicle to take kids to cultural programming around Yellowknife, as well as dropping them at volunteering shifts as part of their life skills program.
“It just gives us the flexibility to do different things instead of being stuck indoors all the time,” Roberts said.
“You’re going to see our bus around.”