Foster/Alternative Care

Native Child and Family Services of Toronto (NCFST) makes every effort to ensure that children and families remain together while receiving child and family well-being services. In certain situations, children and youth are unable to remain with their caregivers and must be placed in alternative care. Usually this arrangement is for a short period of time while caregivers continue on their healing journeys, and appropriate resources can be put into place to support them.

Those interested in providing alternative care must demonstrate a genuine willingness and commitment to adhere to our service model to provide safe, stable and nurturing homes rooted in the traditions and values of the child’s Aboriginal community. They must also be prepared to adhere to standards of care mandated by the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services (MCCSS).

If you desire to make a difference in an Aboriginal child’s life and are committed to working cooperatively with our service model in a non-judgemental, respectful and culturally compassionate way, you are welcome to contact a screener at NCFST to discuss becoming an alternative care provider. They will gather information from you and forward to an alternative care staff who will then call you to complete a preliminary assessment.  If eligible you will be contacted to explore the next steps in the process.

To speak with a screener about becoming an alternative care provider, please call (416) 969-8510.

Alternative Pathways to Care Include:

Customary Care

Customary Care is the care and supervision of an Aboriginal child by a person who is not the child’s direct caregiver, according to the customs and traditions of the child’s band or Aboriginal community. Customary Care Agreements (CCA) recognize that Aboriginal children and youth thrive when family connections and cultural traditions are preserved and protected.

NCFST will work closely and cooperatively with the family and Aboriginal communities to promote this placement before any court application is made. The MCCSS has set out the standards and guidelines for the application process. Any family or community member who is considering Customary Care is welcome to contact NCFST to request further information and explore eligibility.

Child and Family Well-being Agencies and Children’s Aid Societies are mandated under the Child, Youth and Family Services Act (CYFSA) to make all reasonable efforts to pursue a plan for customary care for all First Nations, Inuit and Métis children in need of protection.

A child’s and caregiver’s band must be consulted and support a CCA through a Band Council Resolution (BCR). The child’s biological parents must also support the agreement in conjunction with NCFST and an identified care provider. Children over the age of 6 must consent to the agreement and will be provided legal counsel to voice their consent.

An identified CCA provider must complete a Structured Analysis Family Evaluation (SAFE) home study and complete Parent Resource for Information, Development and Education (PRIDE) pre-service training. Their placement will be supported and supervised by NCFST to ensure the child’s needs are being met.

Once a child is placed in customary care, all protection applications are withdrawn from the courts allowing caregivers the additional time to address protection concerns and continue on their journey of healing and recovery.  Under a CCA,  NCFST will continue to assess and work with the caregiver to mitigate risks so the child may return home wherever possible.

For more information on Customary Care, please see:

Kin Care

Kin Carealso referred to as Kinship Care, is an alternative care arrangement in which an identified relative, community member or person known to a child is willing to provide care to a child or youth under standards set out by the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services (MCCSS). It differs from fostering in that the Kin Caregiver provides care for a specific child or youth (and usually occurs when a child’s caregiver is not in support of their child coming into care). Kin Care providers will be supported directly by a both a Resource Worker and Child and Family Well-being Worker.
Kin Care is often considered when customary care is not an option because a child and their family do not meet the standards outlined under the Child, Youth and Family Service Act.
A Kin Care provider must:
  • meet the application benchmarks outlined by NCFST
  • complete a SAFE home study and PRIDE pre-service training
  • be willing to be supervised and supported by a NCFST Resource Worker and Child and Family Well-being Worker;
  • comply with the licensing standards and regulations set out by the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services (MCCSS);
  • demonstrate a willingness and ability to carry out daily caregiving duties; and
  • work collaboratively and respectfully with the child’s caregiver and worker.
NCFST supports  Kin Care providers through access to cultural and family supports and other community services, while providing ongoing financial assistance to support the child’s basic needs.

Foster Care

When a First Nations, Inuit or Métis child cannot remain with their caregivers and neither Customary Care or Kin Care is available, NCFST will look for alternative caregiving under the fostering model. Placements can be both long and short term. The foster parent will be expected to work closely with caregivers, workers and community members to ensure the child’s needs are met in accordance the standards and guidelines set out by MCCSS.

The Aboriginal world view maintains that our children are sacred and that they hold the key to the future of healthy, strong and resilient communities. Every effort will be made by Native Child and Family Services of Toronto (NCFST) to preserve the family by working together with caregivers to address concerns and making available culturally-safe wraparound supports and other community links to build upon a family’s existing strengths.

Sometimes the challenges facing a caregiver do not allow for a child to safely remain in their home, or a caregiver may voluntarily place a child in care to give them time to access the support they need to resolve identified risks. Every effort will be made to place the child with extended family or community members in other alternative care arrangements such as Customary or Kin Care.  If this is not possible, a child or youth may come into foster care.

While foster care is not a substitute for a healthy family, foster providers work together with the caregiver, identified community members and NCFST workers to provide a holistic experience that nurtures a child’s spiritual and cultural needs and supports the  development of a strong Aboriginal identity.

Our internal foster homes are thoroughly assessed and approved under SAFE home study and PRIDE pre-service training models.  Homes are licensed by the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services (MCCSS) and must comply with provincial standards and regulations under the Child Youth and Family Services Act (CYFSA).  Foster home providers are supported by a NCFST Resource Worker and must comply to the policies and principles set out by NCFST.  They are provided with the child’s history and will receive regular support and guidance from their workers to engage collaboratively, respectfully and non-judgementally with the family.
Every foster care provider is expected to support the traditions of a child or youth in their care by attending culturally specific trainings and teachings through NCFST as well as other Aboriginal and mainstream services. Foster care providers will also participate in service planning and attend plans of care with caregivers and workers to ensure that the voices of the caregiver and child are heard.

Permanency Planning/Adoption

When children are unable to return to their caregivers or be placed in customary care, Kin Care, or foster care, adoption can be considered as a permanency option. Native Child and Family Services of Toronto will only consider adoption when all alternative care options have been exhausted.

For more information, please see: Permanency Planning/Adoption.