Child protection in Ontario relies on foster parents to provide safe homes for children and youth who end up in care on a temporary or permanent basis. In addition, more than 8,000 kids are looking for an adoptive family who can provide friendship and a lifelong connection.
Many individuals and families are unable to foster or adopt, but there are numerous other ways to get involved. The Government of Ontario funds mandatory services for children and youth in care, but other programs rely on volunteers and donors; there are many opportunities to have a positive impact within your local foster care system.
Help Your Foster care System and Speak Out
“…tears of relief flowed down my face…I will be eternally grateful for the help we were given that allowed me to both heal and care for my children, while keeping my pride,” says one quote on UseYourVoice.ca, a site created by the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies.
In addition to foster care and adoption services, Children’s Aid Societies provide support to families that are in crisis. They can intervene to protect a child and help strengthen the family, but only when they know there’s a problem. That’s why they rely on the public’s help to report any signs of abuse.
Contribute Your Time
Many CASs need volunteers for group or one-on-one support; this may include becoming a mentor, tutor, child care provider, group home volunteer or buddy.
Some organizations, like Toronto CAS, have basic criteria like an age requirement and minimum length of commitment; others, like Family and Children’s Services Frontenac, Lennox and Addington try to be flexible in terms of both time and location.
Contribute Your Skills
Whether helping with public relations, administrative work or joining the board of directors, many organizations turn to the skills of motivated volunteers to help govern the CAS and keep it moving forward.
The York Region Children’s Aid Society, for example, describes their directors as people “from the community who have diverse backgrounds and experience but who share a passion and vision for caring for children.”
Help With Transportation
Kids in care often need help getting from Point A to Point B (like visits with their family, therapy, or to school). You can have a direct impact on the life of a foster child by volunteering as a driver and ensuring kids get to appointments on time.
“Some drives are “one time” drives (such as an appointment) and some are “ongoing” (such as to school, or a weekly appointment), so there are varying needs for drivers,” the Durham Children’s Aid Society explains on their website.
Support Local Events
From community events like Trees of Hope in Ottawa and the Grape Expectations Gala in Hamilton to local tournaments and fundraising events, CASs need volunteers to help plan, carry out and support a variety of events throughout the year.
Sponsor an Individual or Family
Some CASs also offer the opportunity for individuals to sponsor the needs of an individual child or family.
For example, through the Children’s Aid Foundation of Simcoe County, you can sponsor a family through the holidays or you can sponsor specific gifts, from family portraits to funds for college, through their Catalogue of Hope.
Donate to your local Children’s Aid Society
Although they receive government funding, each Children’s Aid Society (CAS) is an independent non-profit organization. Making a donation directly to your local CAS allows the organization to direct funds to where it’s most needed in your community.
The Nipissing and Parry Sound CAS’s Children and Youth Opportunity Fund, for example, has three main areas of focus: Recreation, like summer camp; Education, like tutoring; and Special Projects, like specialized equipment.
There are 47 children’s aid agencies in Ontario; programs and needs vary by region. Contact your local Children’s Aid Society for more specific information about how you can get involved.