Inclusive foster care: How foster parents support cultural and relational connections for Indigenous children

Carolyn Oliver - Child & Family Social Work


How do foster parents support the relational and cultural connections of Indigenous children in care? The answer matters; the well‐being of Indigenous children depends on these connections. At one of Canada's largest Indigenous child welfare agencies, we implemented inclusive foster care, an approach requiring foster parents to engage with the family, community, and cultural life of the child for whom they care. Fifteen years later, we present findings from a thematic analysis of interviews with 13 foster parents who participated in a mixed methods study exploring inclusive foster care. We discuss foster parent strategies to support the child's family relationships: setting clear boundaries, rolling with inconsistency, and understanding the family's (hi)stories. Strategies to strengthen cultural connectedness include visiting traditional territory, using personal initiative and Indigenous knowledge, and engaging in school‐based and “multi‐purpose” cultural opportunities. Drawing on foster parent stories of success, we propose ways for social workers, foster parents, and policymakers to address the cultural and relational disruption that characterizes the experience of Indigenous children in care in colonial settler societies.