Canada – as well as much of the world – is experiencing a crisis of a shortage of foster homes. Not only are older foster caregivers retiring, but there is a lack of foster caregivers willing to care for children and adolescents with a variety of needs. Our communication with Children’s Aid Societies as well as private fostering agencies also indicate a perpetual shortage of foster homes catering to the unique needs of specific religious and cultural needs – including Muslim children.
The FosterLink initiative began April, 2017 with initial exploratory meetings with a few child welfare agencies to better understand the need for more robust recruitment from the Muslim community. We spent some time negotiating with agencies to see if FosterLink can be financially compensated for every successful referral we passed on to them. While not ideal, several agencies (CAS and private) agreed to a nominal referral fee. We understood that quite a bit of initial activity would be necessary before we could generate awareness and interest in the community. Without sufficient funding, we decided to work in “volunteer mode” to ramp up the program.
In July, 2017, we made a call out to Mercy Mission Canada volunteers to see who was interested in the foster care cause. A small group of brothers and sisters took up the call and met to figure out how to build out the program. Alhamdulillah, the initial core group even consisted of a three volunteers who themselves provided foster care in the past. This would be important as having experienced foster caregivers on our team would give us insights on the types of people who be ideal caregivers from the Muslim community.
Over the next five months, we developed the FosterLink brand and website, and set up our candidate intake interview system. With some funding from Mercy Mission Canada, FosterLink produced a video on the life of a Muslim foster family. We launched FosterLink officially at the Being ME conference in March of 2018. The launch consisted playing the video to an audience of 2,000+ and an information booth. Alhamdulillah, we collected a good number of signups consisting of interested caregivers and volunteers. And so the journey began!
Over Ramadan of 2018 we worked primarily over social media (primarily Facebook) spreading the word about foster caregiving and receiving a steady stream of candidates through our website. We also ran a modest fundraising campaign on Launchgood (see promo video).
The summer of 2018 was very productive for the team. We applied to the Canada Summer Jobs program for two summer students and received the funding. One student was given marketing tasks and the other was focused on intake. The marketing student was very helpful in creating more exposure on social media and PR opportunities. As a result we got some good coverage on CBC print, CBC radio and an interview with Let the Quran Speak.
Also over the summer of 2018, we ran three seminars at Toronto-area mosques and two webinars.
If you are interested in joining the FosterLink team or wish to learn more about foster caregiving, please drop us a message here.