Foster Care

Children First — Foster Care and Kinship Program

How Does Foster Care Work? | Application Process | Personal Qualifications

Children First is a foster care and kinship program for Unlimited Potential Community Services. We provide safe, temporary out-of-home placement for children with nowhere else to turn. Children are matched with skilled caregivers who offer a family-based environment to nurture each child and stabilize behaviours until they return home.
We provide in-home support to approved foster parents in the greater Edmonton area, and throughout Central Alberta, Red Deer and north, from Camrose in the east to Rocky Mountain House in the west, as well as expanding to the North region.

We provide services in accordance with the following standards:

Our agency operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Within the Children First program, we deliver a continuum of culturally appropriate services to promote the well-being and independence of each referred child, family, or young adult.

The program offers a full range of family-based care, capable of addressing the needs of children with minimal to intensive or specialized difficulties. Placement duration varies from short to long-term, depending on a child’s individual needs.

Who are the children we serve?

Children First serves children who cannot live with their family of origin. The program receives children and young adults up to 17years old of any race or cultural background. In Alberta, there are, on average, between 3800 to 4320 and 1200 to 1400 Indigenous children in approximately 2500 foster homes under the authority of the Ministry of Children’s Services.

Most children who come into care return to their birth families. These children need foster families willing to provide them with a loving, stable, temporary family until issues are resolved and the children can return home.

Other children come into care with a high probability of becoming permanent wards. Ideally, these children are placed immediately into foster families who are able and willing to adopt them when they cannot return home so that the child’s first foster placement is also their last.

Program delivery, supervision and support

Care for each child in the program provides a collaborative team of experienced and qualified agency staff and foster parents who work with the child, the child’s family, Children’s Services’ workers, designated professionals, and community members to meet the child/youth’s individual placement needs.

Children First’s experienced, long-tenured family support workers are committed to improving the lives of the children they care for, acting as their supporters and champions. They provide foster parents with supervision, support, technical assistance, training, and intervention strategies. An assigned family support worker visits each foster family home monthly (more frequently when needed) and stays in regular phone contact. The support worker also meets with and observes the child in the foster home to review the child/youth’s adjustment to the house and to hear any concerns or feedback they may have.

A support worker is on call 24 hours per day to assist foster homes or children/youth with any issues that may arise.


The following supports are also available:

  • Cultural activities and supports
  • Financial compensation
  • In-service training sessions
  • Respite care
  • Emergency respite
  • One-to-one stabilization and supports
  • Mediation services
  • In-home foster family support
  • Crisis intervention
  • Counselling

Application process

The foster parent application process includes the following general steps:
The foster parent application process includes the following general steps:

1. Initial contact
If you are interested in becoming a foster parent, please contact our office either by phone or email. You may download an application form and mail the completed and signed form to our office.

2. Basic qualifications assessment
Once your form has been received and reviewed, a staff from the recruiting team will contact you and ask you a series of questions to assess your qualifications to be a foster parent.

3. Foster care awareness session

4. Pre-screening
After the foster care awareness session with a Children First Team member, that staff member will meet with you and discuss any questions you may have. This will ensure that you meet the basic eligibility requirements.

5. Security checks
Every potential caregiver will be required to undergo a Police Information Check (previously known as Criminal Record Check) with the vulnerable sector checked off, Intervention (child welfare) Record Check, and Foster Care Record Check.

6. References
You will be asked to provide personal references, medical references, and information about your interest in becoming a foster parent.

7. Caregiver orientation training
Training consists of 8 three-hour modules (24 hours total) that address a variety of topics, including child development, the special needs of children in care, duties and responsibilities of foster parents, and supports provided to foster parents. Training also explores your motivation for fostering and whether the demands made upon a foster family are compatible with your family’s values and goals. All foster parents must complete this training before they can be approved. The scheduling of the training varies, with options to attend Saturday or evening sessions.

8. Home study
You must complete a Home Study with a member of the Children First Home study program. Depending on family size and complexity, the worker will then arrange several appointments to meet with you and your family. These meetings will include discussing your family’s history, relationships, significant events, and how your family works and communicates together. Discussions will focus on whether or not the demands of fostering, with regional expectations, will match your family’s values and dynamics.

After the home study, you and your assessment worker will jointly decide whether the fostering journey suits your family and whether you and the agency can have a positive working relationship.

9. Then, there is a licensing process that will need to be completed by the region. This includes, but is not limited to, an environmental assessment of your home to ensure that everything is safe to have Children in Care reside there. Finally, once that is completed, we will begin matching the children to your home.

Personal Qualifications
You must be a resident of Central Alberta (including Edmonton, Red Deer and the North region). You must have resided in Canada for a minimum of 10 years.
You must have sufficient maturity and stability to assume the responsibilities presented by fostering. Your existing relationships must have been stable for a minimum of 2 years.
Physical Space
Your home must be structurally sound and safe, with adequate eating, storage, and sleeping space, including a separate bed for each child. Foster children may share a bedroom, but not a bed. Foster children must not share a bedroom with your own children.
Marital Status
Any stable and mature adult may apply, regardless of marital status. Co-habiting applicants must have been in a stable relationship for at least 5 years prior to applying.
The minimum age for foster parents is generally 25, preferably with a history of child care training/experience. Younger applicants may be considered, depending on experience and available support systems. The maximum age for foster parents is determined by the best interests of the child.
You must be physically and mentally capable of meeting the child’s needs, as well as keeping up with all the duties required of a foster parent. You must have had no major illness or trauma in the past 12 months. A medical reference and positive medical reports are required.
Financial Circumstances You must be living within your means financially. Foster parents receive maintenance payments for the care of the foster child, but these payments are insufficient to be relied upon as regular family income.
Cribs, playpens, and children’s toys must meet current safety standards. Medications and drugs must be locked up. Firearms are to be trigger locked; ammunition is locked separately. Property and vehicles are adequately insured, including personal liability coverage. The foster family must be willing to use universal safety precautions, to minimize the risk of transmission of diseases.
Security Checks You must provide a satisfactory Children’s Services’ Intervention Record Check and a Police Information Check. A Police Information or previous Children’s Services involvement does not necessarily exclude you from approval.
You must provide satisfactory references from three people who have known you for at least three years, one of whom must be a relative. We prefer references that have knowledge of your family life and parenting abilities. A school reference will be required if you have school-age children.
You must complete 24 hours of pre-service training. A commitment to ongoing training is essential. Following approval, an additional 86 hours of training must be completed by each caregiver within 4 years.
Above-average communication skills, flexibility, adaptability, and ability to work as part of a professional team are important. You must have a repertoire of child-rearing skills and be willing to parent foster children without the use of physical discipline. This is important because of the trauma that many children have experienced from physical and sexual abuse.
Family Values and Personality Traits You must have a commitment to family values, a high quality of life, and ongoing self-improvement; a willingness to share time and resources; a tough skin and soft heart; the ability to see success in small steps; and the ability and willingness to work with professionals from a variety of disciplines. You must be a peacemaker and an advocate.

A foster family is a temporary family for a child who cannot remain with their own family. The supportive, trauma-aware atmosphere of the foster home assists the child in developing healthy self-image and offers a positive model on which they can pattern values and behaviour.

What are the goals of foster care?

Our program is based on the belief that children benefit most from being raised within a family and a community. Therefore, the overall goal of the program is to return the child to their own family as soon as it is safe to do so. However, where this is not feasible, we make other long-term plans for the child. These may include placement with a relative, private guardianship, adoption, or independent living.

In support of these goals, we aim to do the following:
• Provide developmental child care and services best suited to the child’s needs, respecting the child’s family, culture, and social and religious heritage.
• Eliminate “foster care drift” (a child “drifting” in limbo in the system) by developing an individualized long-term permanent plan for the child, which may include time guidelines, counselling for the child and family, family training, and help for the child to resolve issues. Foster families are a vital part of this process.
• Accept and support the biological or legal family. This is done by helping the family to stay involved with the children while they are in care, making it easier for the children and family to be reunited once the family has been stabilized.
• Encourage the biological or legal family, the foster family, and the child’s caseworkers to collaborate to facilitate family reunification or an alternative plan for the child.

Where are our foster homes located?

Children First has several foster homes in and around Edmonton, Morinville, Sherwood Park, Spruce Grove, Devon, Leduc, Beaumont, Red Deer and Rocky Mountain House.

When does a child come into care?

A caseworker from the regional Child and Family Services Authority can become involved with a family under either of the following circumstances:
• A member of the community (a neighbour or teacher) reports their concerns about a child’s safety or well-being.
• The family seeks help because it has difficulty protecting or caring for its child.

After meeting with the family and assessing the child’s and family’s needs, the child protection worker recommends further involvement with the family. The child is removed from the family only when all reasonable attempts to protect and meet the child’s needs within the community have been exhausted.

How is a child matched with a foster family?

The first step in matching a child or youth with a foster home is to decide what they need. We then match those needs with the strengths and preferences of the foster family. Before a child is placed in a home, the foster family is given information about the child to help them determine whether the placement fits with the family and the skill level of the foster parent(s). The foster family then decides whether or not they are prepared to accept the placement.

How is the biological or legal family involved?

A primary goal of fostering is to provide children with alternative family care until they can return to their natural family, another family setting, or an independent living situation. One of the responsibilities of a foster family is to support and encourage contact between the birth family and the child whenever it is safe. Foster parents’ involvement with the natural family is sometimes necessary to prepare the child for their return home and to keep the child and family connected. In addition, foster parents may work with the natural parents on matters that affect the child.

What special considerations exist for children from other cultures?

When a child or youth from a different cultural background is placed in a home, the foster parent(s) and the child’s social worker must discuss any special needs related to their heritage. Children First offer foster families a course on Traditional Indigenous Resolution Teachings to help support the child’s need to explore cultural values and ethnic attitudes. Children First works closely with our Indigenous Resource team and we will work closely with the individuals associate band. The child’s social worker is responsible for coordinating this communication. Children First works closely with all cultures and will ensure that all cultural needs are being met at the best of our ability.

What are the confidentiality requirements around fostering a child?

Foster families must respect and protect each child’s right to confidentiality. Agencies, social workers, and foster parents are all bound by the Family Enhancement Act in sharing information with others. Foster families can share information with other professionals assisting in a child’s care, such as Children First staff, a doctor, or a psychologist. All foster parents must sign an oath of confidentiality.

What records do foster parents need to keep?

Foster parents’ observations are invaluable in determining the plan of care for a child. Because this information is so important, all foster parents receive an orientation in record keeping. Children First provide all the paperwork that must be completed and returned to the office monthly. This is legal documentation that can be used in court. Also, adequate documentation is your best defense against false allegations.

What is a service plan?

A service plan details goals, tasks, roles, and expectations for a foster placement. It specifies the supports and actions required to allow a child to return to their family or be placed in an alternative arrangement. A clear plan can help reduce the child’s anxiety and uncertainty about what will happen to them while in foster care. Developing and completing service plans is the responsibility of the child’s social worker and the foster family’s support worker.

What is a case conference or service team meeting?

A case conference is an informal or formal meeting that brings together the foster parent(s) and other individuals who have information to share about a child in care. The conference aims to allow all involved to contribute to planning for the child. Foster parents’ opinions and observations are welcome and essential in helping to broaden everyone’s understanding of the child. Case conferences are often held during the day when possible, but social workers are usually willing to work with foster parents to reach a mutually convenient time.

What is the role of the Children’s Service Authority?

Children’s Services exists to protect and promote the social well-being of children in crisis. It develops and administers statutory and mandated child and family service programs. Child Protection Services ensures that children’s survival, security, and development are protected. Its’ responsibilities include child protection, foster care, adoptions, group homes, and other areas involving children and families.

What is the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act?

The Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act is Alberta’s legal authority for providing child protection services. Its principles guide child protection workers in their work with families. The act stresses the importance of family and using the least intrusive measures to protect the child. It also specifies the circumstances under which a child may require protection. The goals of the Children First program reflect the philosophy of this act.


For more information on the Children First Program, please contact:

Trevor Guse, Director of Family Based care
Email (
780-440-0708 ext 228

Land Acknowledgement

We acknowledge Treaty 6 territory—the traditional and ancestral territory of the Cree, Dene, Blackfoot, Saulteaux , Nakota Sioux and Métis Peoples. We acknowledge the many First Nations, Métis and Inuit who have lived in and cared for these lands since time immemorial. We respect their histories, languages, and cultures whose presence continues to enrich our community. We are grateful for the traditional Elders and Knowledge Keepers who are still with us today and those who have gone before us. We make this acknowledgement as an act of reconciliation and gratitude to those whose territory we are visiting and striving to live in harmony with.

Unlimited Potential Community Services

We welcome your questions and comments.
UP’s main administrative office is located in Edmonton, Alberta.


P: 780-440-0708
Centre 170, Suite 145
10403 – 172 Street
Edmonton, AB, T5S 1K9

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P: 780-440-0708
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