Signs of Safety for Families -Reforming Child Welfare for Aboriginal Families

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Signs of Safety for Families -Reforming Child Welfare for Aboriginal Families

Various cities, CanadaCranbrook, Canada
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Supporting Aboriginal communities to define their own child welfare practice using traditional and modern wisdom.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

In the province of British Columbia and across North America aboriginal children are in foster care in disproportionate numbers compared to their non-aborignal counterparts. Despite many efforts by the provincial government to focus on this issue the numbers are not being reduced. The need to find a different way to meet the needs of aboriginal families has become desperate. In Canada the fastest growing population is in the aboriginal population These children and youth will be the future leaders in Canadian society. The restoration of healthy individuals, families and communities is needed. Combining traditional values, modern child protection research and community development is the new work in aboriginal communities.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Our Solution has been to collect and train ourselves on the best possible ways of working with families to keep them together. One of the methods that we have adopted is called Signs of Safety. It is a solution focussed therapy model that originated the Australian outback. The author's of the original book are Andrew Turnell and Steve Edwards.We have adapted this model to be culturally appropriate by working with local elders and leaders to ensure that we are practising respectfully and skillfully.In doing this over the past five years we have reduced our caseloads to half of our highest numbers. Families are responding and reporting positively to this work. We are now able to use more of our funding for prevention type services. As a non-profit we have started a Social Enterprise to teach our experience to others, demonstrate First Nations business and have funds for ongoing professional development for our own staff.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

As a small non-profit agency we were challenged to serve our host (Ktunaxa) Nation as well as assist/mentor our aboriginal colleagues who ultimately help children. We did not have the time or money to mentor all of our Western Canada colleagues. We were also getting calls from non -aboriginal and agencies from the USA. Our solution has been to start a Social Enterprise business. We are now using our front-line staff to train other aboriginal professionals to do good work with their clients. Our staff are becoming more skillful at what they do by teaching others. Colleague agencies are now growing with us and more children are staying within their family systems. The profits from the social enterprise are going towards positions that we are underfunded for as well as professional development for our staff that we never receive funding for. The primary activities involved in our solution is teaching, consulting and speaking about a new philosophy in child welfare. We teach a human or traditional approach to working with families. This new relationship requires professionals to see clients as worth doing business with, that everyone has strengths, parents have the answers to hard issues, communities can raise children if given the chance. We bring this philosophy to life by teaching how to interview for strengths, how to map out a family problem, how to build a community network around a child, how to assess for real danger, how to interview children in a way that is child friendly and useful in helping parents see the issues. Families are grateful to be part of this process.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

We are a small agency operating amongst huge government agencies that have a very rigid form of practice. We have Signs of Safety peers all over the world. There are only 2-3 in Canada. We are the only First Nations agency that is offering training and consulting in tis method in Western Canada and USA.

Founding Story

We were asked to do the Keynote speech at the Alberta Think Symposium for Alberta Social Services. We were the only out of province agency guest. We are so small to be presenting to a whole government about how to do their work. We looked out into the audience and there was an elder with a big smile on her face nodding her head in agreement to all that we were saying. We knew then that we were on the right track and that our potential was huge. Families can stay together and we can reduce the number of aboriginal children in care across Canada. We are contributing to a movement that gives indigenous communities the confidence to do what they know is right. We are just providing a few researched tools infused with traditional values. As we are doing this we add value to the community where we work and live.
About You
Ktunaxa Kinbasket Child and Family Services Society
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

Ktunaxa Kinbasket Child and Family Services Society

Organization Country

, BC, Cranbrook

Country where this solution is creating social impact

, BC, Various cities

Region in BC where your solution creates social impact

Vancouver, Coast and Mountains, Vancouver Island, Thompson Okanagan, Kootenay Rockies, Columbia Basin.

How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

The information you provide here will be used to fill in any parts of your profile that have been left blank, such as interests, organization information, and website. No contact information will be made public. Please uncheck here if you do not want this to happen..

How long have you been in operation?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Which of the following best describes the barrier(s) your solution addresses? Choose up to two

Transparency, Quality.

Social Impact
Please describe the goal of your initiative; outline what you are trying to achieve

The goal has been to change the way child protection was done in our area. For families to stay in tack and community to grow in a healthy way. We now see the potential to expand our goal to develop a network of practitioners across the country that want bring about a major change on behalf of children.

What has been the impact of your solution to date?

In our own agency we have been able to reduce the number of children coming into foster care by half. We are able to use our funding for prevention and support services rather than protection services. Every time we offer a training in another community we get a report back that a family has been reunited, children returned home to their community. Even if we have to do this work one family at a time we will be satisfied. When we train others and invite them to be part of our mission they are more than willing to join to change lives of families. Families that work with report that they are very happy about how respectfully and skillfully they are being treated. They are making major change for themselves not because they were told to change.

What is your projected impact over the next five years?

The potential for impact is unlimited. Potentially we could reduce the number of children in Foster Care in BC by several percent. This not only reduces budgets but builds happy families and supports community capacity building.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

THe barriers that might hinder our success is lack of business knowledge, advertising and organizing ourselves to get to the people that we need to serve.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

We have the following plan.

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Task 1

Set-up training for two communities per month.

Task 2

Train our own staff for one week intensively in the SOS model.

Task 3

Secure one long term relationship with a community or agency for work to be done for a one year period.

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone
Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Task 1

Create a marketting plan for work.

Task 2

Develop a strategy for training larger groups or agencies.

Task 3

Visit Western Austraila to train ourselves alongside out training partners.

Tell us about your partnerships

We are currently partnered with First Nations, Metis and one non-aborginal organization to deliver training throughout BC and Alberta. We have about 15 training customers so far. Our training mentors are from Carver County Minnesota. Our training sister is in Western Australia. Our consultant is Andrew Turnell from Perth AU. The governments of BC, AB and California have consulted with us practice frameworks. We work within aboriginal communities for free offering community development tools for social services groups and chiefs and councils.

Are you currently targeting other specific populations, locations, or markets for your solution? If so, where and why?

Our market seems unlimited at this time. We are targeting aboriginal organizations as there are hundreds of them across Canada and we know them best. We had inquiries from Ottawa example with huge training projects that we are not in a position to serve at this time. We had more than one inquiry from the USA. We are working on getting taxation for foreign consulting worked out at this time. Potentially we can train around the world.

What type of operating environment and internal organizational factors make your innovation successful?

We operate in a strength based environment that believes that we are part of something bigger than us. We have strong, fearless leadership. We have seen how having our staff teach others strengthens their own practice and in turns helps families. We have a creative, motivated and energized team. Our board and our staff see how this idea is becoming a full circle for changing how we do things and motivating others to do the same.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list

We are currently undertaking research with UBC about our practice model and will share the results with anyone who needs the info. We are always networking and helping people to find what they need in this field. We offer some of our consulting for free especially for high profile "stuck" cases in the interest of helping kids. We have many innovative programs other than this one that we can share.