Pictured above: Paul Rosebush, CEO of Children’s Aid Society of Toronto (CAST); Deb Goodman, Director of the Child Welfare Institute; Hon. Jill Dunlop, Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues; Mahesh Prajapat, COO of CAST; Valerie McMurtry, President and CEO of Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada
Evidence shows that the outcomes for children and youth served by child welfare, a 100-year-old system, are poor and not improving. Children and youth in the care of the child welfare system experience poor levels of academic achievement, employment, and health compared to their peers. Additionally, they experience higher levels of homelessness, criminal activity, teen pregnancies, and human trafficking.
We know that government systems shouldn’t raise children. That’s why strengthening families to reduce the number of children being raised in the care of the child welfare system is an area of strategic priority for the Foundation. We want to help to equip children, youth, and parents to manage through the challenges they face, so kids can grow up at home and in their communities, rather than in care.
At the Foundation, we see ourselves in a role that can bridge child welfare agencies and the work of our partners who serve children, youth, and families involved in Canada’s child welfare system, or that are connected to this population in other ways and have innovative, evidence-based program outcomes. We also know that the government can’t shoulder this work alone and that they need the support of the community.
This year, Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada announced that, by bringing together and through the support of like-minded philanthropists and child welfare experts, we are investing in an approach that can bring positive change for families, children, and youth who are struggling in our community. We want to achieve better outcomes for at-risk families and lay the groundwork for permanent change in the child welfare sector.
The Journey to Zero Program, which has been informed and inspired by proven practices and models that have existed in other parts of the world, as well as Indigenous models, is a pilot initiative that will bring innovation to current child welfare practice in Ontario, including new methodologies, like intensive in-home supports and family group conferencing.
To date, the Foundation has raised $5 million of the $7.3 million that is funding this program, launched alongside Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, which we’ve been able to do this thanks to the generosity of Balsam Foundation and other private philanthropists, including Echo Foundation, Louisa Huband and Craig Moffat, The McConnell Foundation, and The McLean Foundation.
We are thrilled to report that in 2019-20, 185 children from 146 families participated in the program, receiving resources and supports to help them work towards remaining together.
We are dedicated to continuing this work and aligning with other like-minded philanthropic partners to raise more funds to support other initiatives like Journey to Zero, and to expand the model more broadly in the province and across the country.