Children's Voice Sep/Oct 2009

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Spotlight On

Child Welfare League of Canada Celebrates 15 Years

By Maria Carmela Sioco
The Child Welfare League of Canada (CWLC) has been dedicated to enriching the lives of thousands of vulnerable children, youth, and families across Canada for 15 years, but their history of promoting quality service in child welfare stretches long before their federal recognition in October 1994. Canadians working in the child welfare field have been highly involved with CWLA since the early 1920s, with advocates from both countries working together to improve children's quality of life and eradicate abuse and discrimination from households and institutions. In branching out as a separate yet affiliated entity from CWLA in 1994, CWLC was able to delve more deeply into child welfare issues and address problems specific to Canada.

CWLC's vision has always been in accordance with UNICEF's Conventions on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The organization envisions children to be loved and nurtured, and to be given the chance to grow to their fullest potential in the best environment possible. It also seeks to promote respect for Aboriginal children and their families, and foster appreciation for their cultural identity. Today, CWLC has more than 100 members in all provinces and territories of Canada committed to implementing these same goals. Their members are not limited to those working directly with child welfare, but extend further to institutions that share and support the same ideals as CWLC. CWLC's network ranges from government institutions to universities and adoption agencies, all united in working on behalf of children in Canada.

CWLC offers a variety of programs that support children, youth, families, and foster care and adoption agencies. Programs include Building Education Opportunities, Parenting Resource Information Development Education (PRIDE), National Convention Center, Center of Excellence for Child Welfare, and Canadians Looking After Children. Building Education Opportunities provides information to youth, social workers, parents, and caregivers about the government's federal grants for education. This gives youth more options for their education, and tools to work with in finding appropriate guidance or support to finance that education. PRIDE is administered in partnership with CWLA, and explores how to improve the quality of service managed by foster care and adoption agencies and foster families in service. It helps prepare foster and adoptive families in caring for their children and provides support through various trainings.

While CWLC has been growing steadily and gaining respect among its peers, the organization is not without its challenges. "One of the biggest issues we are facing today is corporal punishment," Peter Dudding, CWLC's Executive Director, says. He explains that corporal punishment affects the psychological development of young people, which goes against CRC standards. Additionally, based on the 1998-2003 Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglected Children, the numbers of reported physically, sexually, and emotionally abused children have increased. According to the report, some of the physical abuse started off with corporal punishment.

Another challenge for CWLC- like CWLA-is addressing the effects of the global economic recession. "Problems with recession disproportionately affect children, youth, and families," Dudding says, stressing his concern in working with members to alleviate the repercussions from the economic situation. He explains that budgets are being cut, but the demand for child services is still increasing.

CWLC utilizes their programs to solve the problems that they are facing today. They combat corporal punishment with awareness and education through programs that promote positive parenting. In fighting the global economic crisis, CWLC tries to increase the quality of service that its agencies provide, maximizing agencies' resources and services in order to meet the demands of the Canadian society.

As CWLC celebrates it 15th anniversary this fall, Dudding states that the organization's goal is to raise awareness and understanding of Canadians with regard to child welfare issues. "We may live in an affluent society, but still many children are vulnerable and need attention and awareness," Dudding says. He believes that promoting education and knowledge about these problems will prevent ignorance and apathy surrounding child welfare issues.

CWLC has been working hard to co-promote CWLA's January national conference, which will be held in Washington, DC. "We are grateful and appreciative to CWLA for having created the organization in the first place," Dudding says. He says that CWLC and CWLA have much to learn from each other, given that the issues they face are mostly the same, but their approaches vary.

CWLC has worked to create a positive environment for children and youth growing up in Canada, and has become a medium for which several agencies, institutions, and individuals can communicate with each other in support of child welfare. With all the organization's success and achievements in the past 15 years, CWLC's legacy has only begun.

Maria Carmela Sioco is an editorial intern at CWLA.

Breakfast for Dinner

In honor of their 65th anniversary in August, Hickman's Family Farms in Arizona asked restaurants to hold a "Breakfast for Dinner" event to benefit Arizona Children's Association, a CWLA member agency. Clad in pajamas, robes, and nightgowns, customers came out to nine participating restaurants. Diners donated 1,100 pajamas for the AzCA foster care program and more than $2,700 was raised, with some res-taurants donating a part of their profits. In return, the diners were given a free dozen Hickman Eggs, and a chance at winning a breakfast party for 65 friends.

Heroes for Families

Hailing the agency as Boston's "enduring hero for families" in the 2009 Family Advocate Awards, Boston Parent's Paper commended CWLA member the Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange for helping foster kids transition into permanent homes for 52 years. MARE was one of the first adoption exchanges in the country. The paper noted that the organization has helped children age 6 and older, sibling groups, and children with emotional and physical challenges by holding adoptive parent recruitment events regularly. MARE has also used various forms of media to help spread awareness.

Group Mentoring

True Colors, a sexual minority youth and family services organization in Connecticut, along with the Connecticut Department of Children and Families, a CWLA member agency, launched a group mentoring program for the LGBTQ youth in foster care this summer. DCF started mentoring programs in 2003 where youth were paired with mentors approved by True Colors in one-on-one meetings. Results were so positive that by late fall 2008, the waiting list had more than 50 youth from different parts of the state. The group mentoring program accommodates more LGBTQ youth in monthly group meetings all over Connecticut.

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