Foster Parent Survival Guide

How to Care for a Traumatized Child

Landy Anderson

Landy Anderson is a Senior Manager with several decades of experience in child welfare and social services. She has worked as a child protection worker, supervisor, and senior manager in several Children’s Aid Societies in Ontario for various departments, such as Community Services, Shelter & Transition Housing, Aboriginal Head Start, Youth Services, Intake, After Hours, Family Services, Placement, Kinship Services, Customary Care, Foster Care, and Adoption. Landy is a former Treatment Foster Parent and Licensed Group Home Operator. She has supervised staff-operated group homes and foster care departments for various child welfare agencies including Indigenous Children’s Aid Societies, known as Indigenous Child & Family Well-Being Agencies.

Book Launch October 10, 2023

Training Offerings


Participants will review the key concepts of how to advocate for and support foster parents during internal/external complaints and child protection investigations. The risks of fostering and safeguarding strategies will be discussed. The role and responsibilities of the advocate will be examined in relation to the foster parent, agency, and advocate perspectives and complaint letters. Participants will review various methods of filing complaints through internal and external systems (Ombudsman, RPAC, and CFSRB).

Specific learning objectives for this presentation are:

1. To become familiar with internal and external complaint systems.
2. To be knowledge about the role and responsibility of the advocate during internal/external complaints and child protection investigations
3. To understand the key components of effective complaint letters
4. To be knowledgeable about risks of fostering
5. To understand the importance of strategies to safeguard against allegations
6. To apply critical thinking while supporting caregivers during complaints and child protection investigations

Allegations and Investigations in Foster Homes
Day 1  – Allegations and Investigations in Foster Homes
In this informative session, the foster parent will gain a comprehensive understanding of the process to conduct a Child Protection Investigation in a Foster Home (known as Commuity Caregiver Investigations CCIs). At the conclusion of this session, the foster parent will walk away with a clear understanding of the following:  essential principles of the foster home investigation, roles of the participants, supports, Foster Parent Rights, the case flow of the investigation, the decision-making process, malicious complaints/false allegations, impact of the criminal investigation, outcomes, verification, and closure.  
Day 2 – Safeguarding Against Allegations and Investigations in Foster Homes
The session will focus on Safeguarding Against Allegations and Investigations in Foster Homes.  The objective of the session is to:
•Understand and be sensitive to the impact of allegations against foster parents
•Identify Risk – why allegations occur, taking into account the child, family and agency factors
•Improve Risk Management strategies – consider ways to project foster families including: biological/foster children, babysitters, boarders and extended family
•Help foster parents express their views, experiences and recommendations for Agency consideration 
Caring for an Indigenous Child

Participants will be introduced to Indigenous history and culture. Key cultural concepts to care for an Indigenous child will be reviewed. The importance of building cultural attachments for Indigenous children in care will be discussed and practical strategies to maintain culture in foster homes will be explored. At the conclusion of the session, participants will understand the need to preserve culture for an Indigenous child and how to develop a cultural plan to support this. 

Specific learning objectives for this presentation are:

1. To become familiar with cultural terms and practices.
2. To gain a better understanding of Indigenous people’s relationships with the child welfare system and the disruptions to traditional parenting practices.
3. To be knowledgeable of the differences between Indigenous and Eurocentric worldviews.
4. To understand the value of cultural attachment and learn strategies to support a cultural plan for an Indigenous child in care/customary care.
5. To increase confidence and motivation to further enhance cultural competency to care for an Indigenous child in care/customary care.


Caring for Children with Anxiety Disorders
During this informative session, participants will review the major characteristics of Childhood Anxiety and subtypes of Anxiety defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders with particular attention to: Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD), Specific Phobia, Social Phobia, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Signs and symptoms of Anxiety based on physical, cognitive and behavioural issues will be explored. Common developmental fears will be distinguished from abnormal psychopathology. Possible developmental pathways/causes for anxiety and the influence of cognitive deficits, family impact, temperament, and environmental factors will be discussed.  At the end of the session, participants will understand the invisible nature of the symptoms including effective strategies to manage the disorder in the context of caring for a foster child with an anxiety disorder as it relates to the foster home, classroom, and community environments.  
Conflict Chaos and Crisis

When foster parents open their homes to a foster child, they also open themselves to criticism.  Somehow everyone involved with the child is an “expert” and because everyone is an expert their expert opinions may not always match. In essence, the multi-disciplinary approach is a breeding ground for conflict. The potential for conflict infers that conflict already exists.

A foster parent’s ability to manage the three C’s… Conflict, Chaos and Crisis is a test of their character and an indication of their ability to be a strong partner or a leader.  In order to survive foster care, it is critical that all members understand the role that the three C’s plays in our day to day work, which includes defining conflict, chaos and crisis and exploring how our actions contribute to improving or worsening matters.

The child welfare system is founded on the components of conflict.  These conflict components are the key elements of our child welfare work, identified as: Needs, Values, Interests, Power, Social Disagreement, Stress and Change.  During this training session the relationship between conflict and child welfare and its impact on the child, biological parent, foster parent, agency and government will be examined.

Countering Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) By Nurturing a Child’s Spirit With Fun, Love, and Belonging
Adverse Childhood Experiences “ACEs” (defined as abuse, neglect, isolation, or trauma) are proven to have a lifelong impact extending from childhood into adulthood (Crandall, 2019, p. 1). Children are vulnerable to the long-term consequences of early ACEs including chronic mental health conditions, addictions, poorer quality of life, and life expectancy in adulthood resulting from abuse, neglect, isolation, or other trauma (Crandall et al., 2019, p. 1). Hence, countering ACEs with positive childhood experiences, building resiliency, and nurturing a child’s spirit through fun, love, and belonging is vital. Parental influence and its impact on distress, dysregulation, anxiety, and depression will be discussed (Crandall, 2020; Romero-Acosta, 2021). Social adjustment will be examined from a Western and Indigenous perspective, where a sense of belonging is equally promoted in Indigenous parenting approaches (British Columbia First Nations Knowledge Keepers, 2015) and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (Crandall et al., 2020). Using the Cree Medicine Wheel, individual, parenting, and family values will be explored within the context of the family microsystem.  Emphasizing play, fun, love, and belonging as strategies to counter ACEs,  a natural and therapeutic approach to healing. 
Effective Teamwork: The Importance of Developing a Role Supportive Culture

In child welfare, it’s crucial for team members to work effectively, united in their vision, mission and purpose to achieve good outcomes for the children and families that we serve.  Understandably, success is measured in outcomes, adding scrutiny and pressure to the child-in-care team to produce good results.  In order to create a Role Supportive Culture, the team needs to understand each other’s roles and responsibilities and support other people’s roles and responsibilities while fulfilling their own.  In a Role Supportive Culture, team members must have a genuine interest and willingness to learn about each other. The objective of this informative session is to have interdepartmental participation and authentic conversations about the challenges in creating and maintaining effective teams in a child welfare setting including a frank discussion about the implications and systemic barriers to engaging all team members.

During today’s session, designed exclusively for Staff & Management, participants will identify and analyze the following concepts:

  • What is a team and how do you build a team?
  • What does belonging to a team mean?
  • Characteristics of an effective team
  • Barriers to effective teamwork
  • Pros and Cons of teamwork
  • Personality, conflict and communication styles
  • Challenges of Foster Care Resource Workers
  • How to develop a Role Supportive Culture
  • How to engage workers across departments
Foster Parent Leadership Within a Team Construct
During this session, participants will increase their understanding of their own foster parent leadership style and develop a vision of foster parent leadership (within their own homes and the child welfare team). Leadership values and competencies will be explored, focusing on the characteristics that people value the most in their leaders (Kouzes & Posner, 2012, p. 3), such as:
1. Model the Way
2. Inspire a Shared Vision
3. Challenge the Process
4. Enable Others to Act
5. Encourage the Heart
Key concepts of organizational leadership will be transposed to the foster parent role and their parenting practices. Emphasis will be placed on the ability to demonstrate reflective leadership as a foster parent within the context of the foster family and child welfare system.  The pros and cons of teamwork and the functional abilities of teams will be explored. Communication and conflict management styles as factors to teamwork will be explored. Engagement strategies including contributors, tools and barriers to engagement will be discussed. At the end of the session, participants will have a better understanding of how to engage and motivate others, including their children and peers. 
How Canada’s History Built the Relationship Between Child Welfare & Indigenous People
The relationship between the child welfare system and Indigenous people is directly linked to colonialism and current-day oppressive paradigms that fuel the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in Canada’s child welfare system. According to Census 2016 data, 52.2% of children in foster care under 14 years old are Indigenous (Government of Canada, 2021). Sadly, “between 1989 and 2012, Indigenous children have spent more than 66 million nights in foster care – the equivalent of 180,000 years” (Edwards, 2017a, para. 6).  Due to the collective traumas related to colonialism, racism, and genocide (Alberton et al.,2020, p. 6; National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, 2019, p. 379), Indigenous people are experiencing more childhood abuse and neglect, child welfare involvement, discrimination, structural violence and oppression, poverty, incarceration, homelessness, and health and educational disparities (Alberton et al., 2020, pp. 5–7). The specific learning objectives for this presentation are:
To gain an understanding of colonialism and how Canada’s history constructed the relationship between the child welfare system and the Indigenous community
To review the effects of child poverty and maltreatment
To better understand the implications of child welfare involvement for Indigenous children, youth, and families
To explore how traditional Indigenous parenting styles were disrupted.
To become familiar with current efforts to reform Indigenous child welfare 
How To Provide Effective Support To Foster Parents During Foster Home Investigations & Complaints
This session is designed exclusively for Staff who conduct Foster Parent Investigations or those who work closely with Foster Parents.  During the training session, Workers will be provided with the Foster Parent Perspective/Response to being subjected to an investigation and/or complaint.  The following topics will be reviewed:
Working with Foster Parents  – A Specialty
• Life in the fishbowl
• The 1 minute assessment
• Recognizing the Foster Parent Stage of Development
The Foster Parent Perspective
• Spoken fears & Unspoken fears
• Conflict, Chaos and Crisis… a concentrated period of a stress
• The aftermath of the Investigation
How to Help – Offering Effective Support
• The importance of time
• Clear and consistent communication
• Language & Terms of Reference
At the end of the session, participants will gain a unique perspective in the complexity of conducting and supporting Foster Parents during Foster Home Investigations and Complaints – leading to a better understanding of how to effectively provide support during this potential crisis and ease the trauma that foster parents experience after undergoing a formal child protection investigation. 


Indigenous People’s Relationships With Our Animals
The therapeutic value of animals (Human-Animal Interaction “HAI”) is well researched (Amiot, Sukhanova & Bastian, 2020; Sterman & Bussert, 2020; Fine, 2020; Griffin, Hurley & McCune, 2019; Grubaugh, Myers, Keller, Wangelin, Lozano & Tuerk, 2019; Linden, 2018). Relatedly, there is an abundance of evidence to corroborate the efficacy of animal-assisted treatment programs, mostly with dogs and horses (Plume, 2016; Tedeschi & Jenkins, 2019). Animal-assisted therapy is proven effective for children. For Indigenous people, horses are our sacred relatives and teachers, helping us understand our responsibilities to humans and animals alike. During the training session, participants will explore the therapeutic value of animals (HAI)  and Indigenous peoples’ relationships and healing through animal relationships specifically with horses and dogs.  The colonial tactics to disrupt Indigenous People’s relationships with their animals will also be discussed.  
Introduction to Indigenous Customs and Traditions
During this full day training session, participants will be introduced to Indigenous Customs and Traditions, belonging mostly to Ontario First Nations – gaining familiarity with Indigenous ways of life and the values associated with living a “Good Life” and having a “Good Mind” consisting of holistic philosophies based on traditional beliefs. At the end of the session, participants will prepared to attend Ceremony with their children. The following topics will be discussed:
1. Cultural Safety
2. Aftermath of Residential School & Sixties Scoop
3. Differing Worldviews & Values
4. Importance of Ceremony, Customs and Traditions
5. Sacred Medicines
◦ Personal Altars
◦ Let’s make Tobacco Ties!
6. Sacred Bundles/Sacred Items
7. Elders versus Elderly People versus Knowledge Keepers
◦ Approaching Elders
8. Protocols
9. Teachings & Ceremonies
◦ Differences among Nations
Key Note Address

Hidden Histories – Chinese and Indigenous People’s Relationships  (Complementary)

Our Chinese and Indigenous communities have shared histories. We faced hardships together while mining for gold in the British Columbia gold rush and experiencing the rugged Canadian weather and terrain. According to Ma (2012),

First Nations people nursed railway workers back to health when they were left to die along the tracks, how First Nations men had teamed up with Chinese labourers working in a Nanaimo coal mine to fight off white bullies, and how some labourers had children with First Nations women. (para. 6)

There are many graves on First Nations territories when Chinese people died from the flu and from the building of the railway, crushed by landslides, collapsing tunnels and premature blastings (Mittelstedt, 2014). Our First Nations communities took in the Chinese railroad workers and care for their grave sites to this day (Mittelstedt, 2014). We enjoyed economic success and partnerships that were respectful and mutually beneficial (Ma, 2012). Chinese people leased lands (on First Nations) to farm and then hired Indigenous people to help farm the land (Mathur et al., 2011, p. 74). The Chinese built elaborate gold-mining operations among First Nations communities and perhaps most importantly our communities intermingled and there were many marriages between Chinese men and Indigenous women. In 1891, 98% of Chinese people in Canada lived in British Columbia (Barman, 2013, p. 1), which explains why there are such intimate ties between Chinese people and our First Nations communities in British Columbia. Unsurprisingly, one in six Chinese men created a family with a local Indigenous woman (Barman, 2013, p. 1).

During this informative and provocative keynote address, participants will learn about the seldom told stories of oppression and resistance that our Chinese and Indigenous communities faced. Our histories are threaded together by Canada’s shameful racist legislation that disrupted Chinese and Indigenous families. The historical wrongs that impacted Chinese and Indigenous communities including the residential schooling system will be discussed. 

Placement Stability
Placement breakdowns are prevalent in child welfare and a growing phenomenon as children in care become more difficult and costly to manage, often being placed at the onset with a host of challenging behaviours, emotional and social difficulties and increased complex psychiatric diagnosis.  The placement needs of the child and foster parent are inextricably linked.  This notion is supported through an examination of a number of research projects regarding; placement stability and placement satisfaction in foster and group placements, permanency, trends in moving, covariates of placement success and resiliency. This informative session will provide foster parents and child welfare staff with an overview of the research and a broad understanding of the factors that contribute to placement stability and the issues that affect policies and practice. During this session, the following topics will be explored:
• Review of placement stability and placement satisfaction research in foster and group placements based on a cross comparison of measurable outcomes
• Predictors of placement stability
• Deconstructing the breakdown/Agency Contributors
• Overview of healthy placement transitions
• The “Love Match”
• Resilience, placement preservation & permanency
• Placement Team – Clinical Role/Strategic Planning


Reconciliation - What It Means To Me
In this provocative session, the history of colonialism and the implications for the Indigenous community will be reviewed. Emphasising the current reconciliation efforts and inviting participants to take responsibility in Canada’s history by exploring what reconciliation is and what it means to them.  The session will include an examination of colonialism, definitions of reconciliation, and an overview of Orange Shirt Day, National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (TRC), the TRC Calls to Action. Practical strategies for allyship will be offered.  Specific learning objectives for this presentation are:
•To better understand colonialism from historical and current contexts
•To make meaning of reconciliation from an individual and historical perspective
•To describe current reconciliation initiatives from a local, provincial and federal level 
The Career Foster Parent
Fostering is a calling, but it’s also a career. Foster parents are not employees in a workplace, which is why they don’t have the same rights and entitlements that employees have under labour law.  Even though foster parents are not employees, they are still pursuing a career in fostering and must take their career seriously, just as any other career-minded individual. In this self-reflective session, foster parents will gain an understanding of the agency perspective in choosing one placement over another and authentic reasons for empty beds, including foster parent contributors. During this informative session, foster parents will review:
• Qualities of career foster parents
• The “Money Talk”
• Relying on fostering as income
• Agency intentions for placement/flow of beds
• The “Business” of foster care
• Foster parent contributors to empty beds & negative opinions
• Understanding the agency perspective in placement practices
• How negative opinions about your home are formed and how to turn this around
The Duty to Report Campaign – A Call to Action
During this one-hour training session, participants will learn about the laws that govern The Duty to Report (also known as mandatory reporting) in Ontario (Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017, s. 125) by examining the Inquest recommendations from the death of Kaitlynn Angel Sampson (7 years old at the time of her death). The research about mandatory reporting and the reasons why professionals are hesitant to make mandatory reports will be discussed. The purpose of the Duty to Report Campaign   is to call on our government to legislate two of the 173 Inquest recommendations hoped to prevent a similar tragedy. The campaign is focused on the following two inquest recommendations, 
• #6 The Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services fund and carry-out a comprehensive, ongoing, public awareness campaign on the Duty to Report
• #8 The Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services establish a mandatory annual training program for those professionals with a higher responsibility surrounding the duty to report under s. 125 of the Child, Youth and Family Services Act (2017)
Specific learning objectives for this presentation are:
1. To understand the circumstances that lead to the death of Katelynn Sampson
2. To review local, national, and international research on mandatory reporting and the reasons why professionals lack the confidence to make reports and their resistance to make reports
3. To analyze the negative impacts of child abuse and neglect


The Family Food Ecosystem and Why it Matters to Kids in Care
Research suggests that parenting styles and behaviours contribute to children’s eating habits and health status. Apart from the health risks and benefits of food, it also represents comfort and encapsulates culture. More to the point, food creates positive childhood memories and helps shape a child’s cultural identity. Notably, food represents security, which is especially important for children in care, who tend to come from impoverished families and/or traumatic experiences. Research has linked childhood trauma to eating behaviours/disorders and other food-related issues such as obesity and food addictions. Further, research confirms that the severity of childhood trauma corresponds to the severity of food addiction, demonstrating how childhood experiences have lifelong implications. From an ecological perspective, participants will examine the importance of the family food ecosystem and how it influences a child’s development. 
The Impact of Fostering on Biological Children of Foster Parents
The decision to foster belongs solely in the hands of foster parents. While we may politely ask our children about their opinions towards fostering during the application phase, simply put, they don’t know what they don’t know. Most children will support their parent’s decision to foster and they are usually excited at the prospect of helping other children and look forward to the companionship. Neither the foster parent nor the biological child can truly understand what it’s like to live with a foster child until they experience it firsthand.  Once a foster parent begins fostering and growing up their biological children alongside foster children, the reality of this unique relationship between biological children and foster children quickly transforms family dynamics requiring a specialized parenting approach to effectively meet the biological and foster child’s needs.  During this reflective and interactive session, foster parents will review the research on the impact of fostering on the biological children of foster parents.  Themes explored are:
• Loss of privacy
• Physical threats and abuse
• Living with lying, stealing and manipulation
• Coping with frightening situations related to the foster child’s trauma
• Experiencing loss and issues of trust
• Competing for parent’s time and attention
At the end of the session, foster parents will discuss strategies to help their children cope while living with foster children.


Under A Spotlight and in the Public Eye
“As parents, we all have our bad days but as foster parents one bad day in public is not easily erased”
In this informative session, participants will focus on the scrutiny of fostering and what it means to live up to the standards of a “State Parent” bound by Society’s values, rules, policies, judgment, and legislation.  The danger of applying a “One-Minute Assessment” to form an opinion on a foster parent’s capacity/character will be discussed. The notion of adapting to “Life in a Fish Bowl” using strategies to manage allegations and navigate community relationships will be explored including a discussion on trauma and the aftermath of investigations in foster homes.
This part of the session will focus on moving from parenting to foster parenting through the Stages of Fostering defined as:
1. Helper – Acts and behaves as “volunteers”, appreciative, lacks judgment and insight into child welfare matters, overall lacks independence
2. Partner – Acts as a “corporate parent”, truly understands how to navigate the child welfare matrix, works independently
3. Leader – Acts as an “advocate”, well trained and confident, embraces conflict professionally
 Each stage of development will be examined.  At the end of the session, participants will have an opportunity to self-reflect and consider areas for their own professional growth and development. 

Participant Feedback

Learning about the history of Indigenous people in more detail. I was unaware of most of the detail of Residential Schools and the true meaning of reconciliation.

The fact that you are so passionate made this session very motivating

The information that was presented was really interesting and helped me get a better understanding of Indigenous life

Learning that even though I am not Indigenous, I can be helpful and a part of building connectedness

Having a passionate and knowledgeable speaker engage the class about important topics

Take your workshop to other agencies so more workers get this information

Workers need to take this course!

The whole presentation was very informative and relevant in all areas

Absolutely everything taught was helpful

Could not have been done any better!

You have a good grasp on what we’re experiencing

Landy’s honesty, her history/experience, and her delivery was excellent

She shoots from the hip with conviction!

Excellent material, well packaged, excellent speaker

Landy, God bless you…. foster parents need your book!

Excellent balance of fostering family and worker perspective

This is the best presentation I have seen on this subject

It’s good to see someone on the inside advocating for the foster parents and strengthening our community

Excellent balance of fostering family and worker perspective

You walk the talk!

I love your insight into your understanding of the dynamics between workers/agency and foster parents

The fact that Landy has experience from all areas lets her put things in perspective

Repeat this training to ALL agencies and workers

I liked learning different ways to deal with the agency

Landy reminded me how to function as a foster parent effectively and protect my own biological children

This course is very effective and should be available to all agencies for foster parents and staff

I wish we had more time

You kept it "real" to what really matters, the children. Your high energy was contagious! Hope you get to the Kivalliq Region in Nunavut

You kept it "real" to what really matters, the children. Your high energy was contagious! Hope you get to the Kivalliq Region in Nunavut

Good to hear the overviews and how they are the same province to province

The open and flexible delivery of the information kept my attention and I appreciated the relevant examples

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