girl sitting by window

What is foster care?

Fostering is the act of bringing a child into your family and providing them with life necessities as well as emotional support during a difficult and confusing time. Under the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, foster care is defined as the placement of a child or young person in the home of someone who receives compensation for caring for the child but is not the child’s parent. Ontario’s Children Aid Societies (CASs) work hard to keep families together and children at home. When children cannot remain at home because of serious concerns about their safety and protection, foster families care for the child until they can safely return home.

What are the benefits of foster care?

Foster care provides children and youth with a safe family setting during a time of crisis. In many situations, foster care can provide vital support that enables parents to address issues that are putting their children’s safety and well-being at risk. In most situations children placed in foster care are reunified with their families, once their parents’ parenting skills have been strengthened with support from CASs and community partners. In other situations, foster care can open new doors to safety, permanency, and well-being for children whose parents remain unwilling or unable to meet their needs.

The Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services formally recognizes long-term foster care as a permanency option for some children in care. Not all children who are in the care of a CAS are suited for or interested in adoption, kinship care, or legal custody. For many of these children, permanency and a sense of belonging are found with their long-term foster families.

Who are foster children?

  • Each foster child is unique
  • They are children in your neighbourhood
  • They are infants to young adults
  • They are single children, and they are sibling groups
  • They are from all cultural backgrounds

Who are foster parents?

  • People who want to parent
  • Single people
  • Couples
  • People who have a desire to contribute to the well-being of children and youth in their community
  • People from many different religious backgrounds
  • People who are from all cultural backgrounds

How does foster care work?

Children may need foster care for just a few days, a week, several months, or possibly even years. Foster parents work with Children’s Aid staff as part of a team to develop and support a plan of care for each child or youth in care. The preferred plan is to reunite a child or youth with their family. When this is not possible, the plan may include exploring alternative permanency options such as adoption, kinship care, customary care, legal custody by a family member or foster parent, or an independent living situation. Foster parents can provide stability and a caring home that encourages a child or youth’s growth and well-being.

In Ontario, all foster care applicants must complete the following requirements to provide foster care:

  1. Complete a SAFE (Structured Analysis, Family Evaluation) home study.
  2. Complete PRIDE (Parent Resources for Information, Development, and Education) pre-service.

SAFE Home Study

SAFE (Structured Analysis, Family Evaluation) is a standardized assessment model for all Ontarians interested in expanding their family through kinship care, fostering, and adoption. A SAFE home study includes

  • Application
  • Home safety checklist and questionnaires
  • Medical evaluations
  • Criminal record check
  • Children’s Aid provincial and local database check
  • References

A SAFE home study may only be completed by a Children’s Aid worker or a Ministry-approved licensed practitioner. A SAFE home study can take 4–6 months to complete and is generally valid for up to 2 years.

Parent Resources for Information, Development, and Education (PRIDE) Training

PRIDE pre-service is a nine-module (27-hour) training program used to prepare and educate families interested in kinship care, fostering, and adoption. PRIDE curriculum includes information about the following:

  • Adoption and child welfare systems, processes, and laws
  • Attachment and loss
  • Child development and issues specific to the needs of adopted children
  • The effects of neglect, lack of stimulation, abuse, and institutionalization on children
  • Identity formation and the importance of cultural and racial awareness
  • The importance of connections and continuity for children

PRIDE pre-service training can be completed through a CAS at no cost or through a private PRIDE trainer for a fee. Please contact your local CAS to enquire about PRIDE or view a schedule of private PRIDE preservice training sessions here.

On-going Support

Once approved, foster caregivers are required to participate in ongoing training on annual basis. Their development plan is reviewed annually, and goals are set for the following year.

When there are children placed in foster homes, the children are seen on a regular basis by staff from a Children’s Aid Society, including private visits to allow them to talk about private matters, including the care they are receiving. In addition, CAS staff meet regularly with the foster parents to discuss what needs, if any, the foster parents have to help them further meet the needs of the child, children and/or youth(s) in their care.

Need more information?

For information about foster care, contact the foster care department at your local CAS.

There is always a need for more foster homes, and there are many regional foster recruitment programs across the province.

Foster Care Association Links