What is foster care?

Sometimes, a child cannot remain at home with their parent or caregiver because of severe safety concerns; this is when a child enters the foster care system. They will be with a foster family that will care for them until it is safe to return home.

According to the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies (OACAS), foster care is the placement of a child or youth in the home of someone who receives compensation for caring for the child but is not the child's parent or caregiver.

Every child has different needs. Some will be in foster care for just a few days, a week, several months, or possibly years. While the ultimate goal is to keep families together, some children will remain in foster care permanently when their parent(s) remain unwilling or unable to meet their needs, or they have reached the age of 18 and can live independently.

Why are children placed in foster care?

According to the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services (MCCSS), children can be placed in foster care by a children's aid society for the child's protection, voluntarily by their parents or caregivers, or by court order.

Each child in foster care is unique. A child may be placed in care because there is a conflict within the family; their caregiver is ill or unable to take care of them; for example, they cannot provide the necessities of life for some reason. Other children may be neglected, abused or abandoned. "Child abuse" includes physical, emotional and sexual abuse or neglect. It also addresses a pattern of abuse and risks of harm.

Are there different kinds of foster care?

Just like the unique children placed in foster care, there are different types of care to meet the needs of these children.

Regular Foster Care

Children in Children's Aid Societies' care are placed in 'regular foster care.' In this model of care, a child is placed within an approved foster family that will provide for their day-to-day needs in a family setting. This way, the child will have a stable home while their long-term plans are made. Most children will go back to live with their own families after staying with their foster families for a period of time. Other children will remain with a foster family until they are either adopted or have reached the age of 18 and can live independently.

Parent Model

The Parent Model of Care is offered in some regions specifically for adolescents. Foster parents in this program foster in a home owned by the local Children's Aid Society. This program provides care for up to three youths. The CAS will provide a staff-supported, family-based environment for adolescents to work on life skills to prepare them for their permanent plan after leaving the foster care system.

Relief or Respite Care

Respite or relief care homes generally support other foster parents for weekends or on a short-term basis; for instance, when travelling together isn't possible because of restrictions of the placement child or many different reasons.

Receiving Homes

Foster families that act as Receiving Homes provide emergency placements for school-aged children and usually for no more than 30 days.

Customary Care

Customary care is a culturally appropriate placement option within the child's community. It respects the values and traditions of First Nation, Métis, and Inuit children who cannot remain with their immediate families. There are formal and traditional care agreements depending on the child's needs and the community supports available where they are from.

Kinship Care

Kinship home care is typically provided by someone the child is familiar with. The caregiver would generally be a relative, community member or a friend of the child's family.

How can I become a foster parent?

If you would like to learn more about becoming a foster parent, the first step is to contact your local Children's Aid Society. They will help you complete the required steps. You must complete a mandatory homestudy assessment and parent preparation training to be approved as a foster caregiver.

The Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies also provides detailed information about fostering. Foster parents work with their local Children's Aid as part of a team to develop and support a care plan for each child in care.

Foster parents are individuals or couples who desire to contribute to their community by supporting the growth and development of children needing care. Foster parents come from all cultural and religious backgrounds.

There is always a need for more foster homes, and there are many regional foster recruitment programs across the province. Contact the foster care department at your local CAS for information about foster care.

For More Information

  • Duty to Report - If you have any reason to believe that a child requires protection or is at risk of harm, call Children's Aid. From Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies.
  • What options do I have for adopting a child? - Adopting children happens for different reasons; regardless of your reason, there are steps to take if you plan on blending and growing your family. From Settlement.Org
  • Navigate the Child Welfare System - A guide for Ontario's Black community from the One Vision One Voice program led by the African Canadian community. Funded by the Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services through the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies.
Last updated: June 7, 2023 4006480