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Every Child Matters: Strengthening Foster Families in Canada

The Child Welfare League of Canada (CWLC) and the Canadian Foster Family Association (CFFA) share a long-term commitment to developing the future of foster care in Canada. Through this project, they will work to improve the quality of life and the future outcomes for children growing up in foster care. These children often have complex and challenging needs when they reach the homes of their caregivers. However, because of the national shortage of foster parents and the uneven quality of this care, the response is sometimes inadequate. Shortages of foster care, placement mismatches, and the lack of training and support for caregivers can result in placement breakdown and yet another loss for the child.

The United Nations Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children provides a framework for this project. The Guidelines positions family-based alternative care as the best care option for the child – an option that is not always available in Canada. The extent of this shortage will be identified in this project, as well as the recruitment and retention strategies that aim to address this shortage. This data will provide a snapshot of current foster care and lead to an identification of best practice in the field. This information is fundamental to developing national policies and standards for foster care.

There are four overall goals of this project:

  1. Provide baseline information to support the development of the Foster Parent Resource Kit and support the development of recruitment and retention policies, strategies and project monitoring and evaluation;
  2. Improve the quality of life and well-being of children living in foster care;
  3. Increase the availability and access to foster care through expanding foster care recruitment; and
  4. Improve the quality of training and support available for foster parents; and expand and support networks to share and disseminate knowledge regarding foster care planning, development, research and outcomes.

These goals will be achieved through knowledge sharing, consultation, and collaboration with the two key stakeholders (foster parents and their child welfare partners) as well as key experts in the field. The foster parents themselves will share their knowledge through a national survey as well as through ongoing consultation sessions in selected sites. Simultaneously, their child welfare partners will be involved through consultation and through the data collection process. This frontline expertise will combine with identified evidence-informed resources, resulting in the development of a Foster Parent Resource Kit and a Compendium of Foster Care Resources.

Both the Compendium and the Kit, available online and in both official languages, will support a continuation of knowledge sharing. This continuation will be seen through the second phase of the project: a national teleconference series on Every Child Matters; training sessions for child welfare professionals and foster parents; and two special editions of Canada’s Children.

Foster care is an integral and foundational service that provides a safe, caring, and nurturing environment to children without parental care. Foster parents with access to current national information, plus a pool of resources and supports, will feel valued and supported, and this feeling ultimately impacts the child in care. The notion that every child in care matters is more than a moral imperative or a statement of values. It is a Canadian belief that children should have the opportunity to be fully prepared to participate in a free society, and that children without parental care need the best possible foster care that Canada can provide.