CLOUT insists foster care doesn't need to be a negative experience

The CLOUT foster care program in Winnipeg is taking a new approach to caring for children and birth parents that are facing difficult circumstances.

Foster placements in the CLOUT program don't typically exceed 12 months

CLOUT provides short-term, culturally-appropriate, reunification-focused foster care. (Wahbung Abinoonjiiag Inc.)

The CLOUT foster care program in Winnipeg is taking a new approach to caring for children and birth parents that are facing difficult circumstances.

CLOUT — or Community Led Organizations United Together — is made up of nine community-based organizations.

The foster care program they provide keeps children in foster homes for a period of three to 12 months.

During that time, CLOUT program employees and foster parents work one-on-one with birth parents to ensure they take the proper educational programs to prepare them for reunification with their children.

"It's all about reunification. It is the only program in the province that is focused on reunification and getting the birth families together," said Angela Young, one of CLOUT's foster parents.

Read more about the member organizations of CLOUT and their resources on their websites:

Young says she has worked with four different families already and all of those children are now living back at home with their birth parents.

The educational programs are only one part of the CLOUT program, Young explained.

Foster parents "really go out of their way" to be there for the birth parents, she said — anything she can do to show the birth parents how much she cares about them and their children.

"Some people, young parents, know that the situations they're put in, or they put themselves, aren't healthy. So they've decided they need the help, which means they sometimes have to put their child in care, or children in care," she said.

"It's a lot of the same old story that a lot of women go through when they're trying to get their kids back and are trying to do the right thing to get their kids back," said Nicole Mercer, whose children were enrolled in the CLOUT program 10 years ago.

"[CLOUT] looks at them, sees what they're doing and just kind of backs them up," said Mercer. "They reunited me with my kids."

Young said she thinks it's important that birth mothers and fathers feel cared for in the program and that there is open communication. She said the foster program does not need to be such a negative experience for those involved. 

"My mom has always told me that family is the community," Young said. "I've got foster brothers and foster sisters that will always be my brother and sister. So that's where I get it from, my parents."


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