Foster Care is the temporary living arrangement made for a child when Children's Services is unable to quickly locate and support suitable kinship care.
Foster care is the full-time, temporary care of a child in your home. Ideally, a child in foster care returns home to their birth family as soon as possible.
When a swift return home is not possible, alternate longer-term care plans are made to place the child with a relative or community member through one of the following:
Who are the children coming into foster care?
A child coming into care can be an infant, child or youth under the age of 18. They can be of any gender, sexual orientation, or ethnic background. Some children need short-term placements while others need longer-term living arrangements. Almost all will have experienced some form of trauma from being removed from their home or previous placements.
Children entering foster care may:
- have experienced abuse, neglect, exposure to family violence or excessive drug or alcohol use
- be part of a sibling group that needs to be kept together
- need assistance with keeping connections to their own family, community, cultural background and heritage
- struggle with loss and grief
- be sexual or gender diverse
- require help preparing for adulthood
When does a child come into care?
A caseworker from Children’s Services (CS) or a Delegated First Nation Agency (DFNA) becomes involved with a child’s family when:
- the family seeks help because of difficulty caring for or keeping their child safe, or
- a member of the community reports a concern about a child’s safety or well-being
After meeting with the family, the caseworker assesses both the child's and the family's needs. As well, the caseworker takes into account the family's strengths and ability to provide safety for the child. The caseworker then makes recommendations about further Children's Services involvement with the family. Only when all reasonable attempts to meet the child's needs within the family have failed, or when the child's safety is threatened, will the child come into care.
Role of a foster caregiver
Children living in foster care, like all other children, require love, comfort, security and stability. Alberta’s foster care program is based on the belief that family and community are the most beneficial and desirable environments for raising a child. Whenever possible, a child in foster care should live in a culturally-appropriate home.
- provide for the day-to-day needs of the child in their care
- nurture the child’s physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and cultural needs
- work as team members with the child, the child’s parents and extended family, the support network, the child’s caseworker and other professionals
- participate in foster care training that enhances and develops their caregiving skills
- collaborate in planning for the child
- support contact between a child and the child’s connections
- learn to manage the loss and grief experienced by the children in their care
Foster caregivers come from all cultural and social backgrounds and are of any relationship status including common-law and same-sex relationships. Foster caregivers are part of a team that supports the best interests of the child – they’re mentors, caregivers, role models and support systems who will provide a temporary family environment for a child.
To apply, you must meet the following criteria:
- resident of Alberta
- at least 18-years old; the maximum age will be determined by the best interests of the child
- in a stable relationship for at least 12 months prior to applying, if cohabitating
- physically and mentally capable of safely caring for children with no major illness or trauma in the past 12 months
- have a residence separate and apart from other caregivers
- financially stable
Foster caregivers cannot:
- have become responsible for an additional child in the past year, and/or
- be currently expecting an additional child through pregnancy or adoption
Support for caregivers
Support for foster caregivers is provided through government caregiver programs and staff, agencies, other caregivers and the Alberta Foster Kinship Association.
These include, but are not limited to:
- ongoing contacts and visits from a support worker and the child’s caseworker
- resources for respite and child care
- peer support
- support groups
- conferences and recognition events
Learn more about compensation rates, training and other supports.
How to apply
Step 1. Contact us
To find out about becoming a foster caregiver, contact your local Children’s Services office or Delegated First Nation Agency who will assign a worker to help you through the application process.
Step 2. Application process
During the screening and placement process, you will complete the following:
- Application form
- Home Study
- Intervention Record Check
- Criminal Record Check
- Medical reference
- Personal references
- Environmental Safety Assessment
- Orientation to Caregiver Training sessions
For more information, refer to the Foster Care Handbook.
Step 3. Licensing
Upon approval, you’ll be issued a foster home licence and assigned a foster care support worker who will provide ongoing support and training.
Licenses are issued annually to demonstrate your ability to safely care for children in your home.
For more information, refer to the Foster Care Handbook.
After your home is licensed
After a home is licensed, the foster caregivers and children in care receive ongoing contact and supports. This includes:
New homes are reassessed six months after they’re licensed and annually thereafter.
Caseworker contact with child and caregiver
Caseworkers have regular contact with the child and caregiver, especially in the early days of placement.
Ongoing training is required to support caregivers in the fostering process. Learning about how to meet the different needs of infants, children and youth can be challenging and exciting. A learning plan is developed for each caregiver family to assist in providing the best possible care for the child coming into care.
Find caregiver services in your area:
Toll free: 1-888-643-1889