Four ways a former crown ward would change Canada's child welfare system

November 13, 2018

When Jane Kovarikova advocates for reform to Canada's foster care system, she’' speaking from experience.

Kovarikova was one of almost 60,000 Canadian children in care . At six years old, she entered the system, and at twelve she became a crown ward.

The changes to her life came rapidly: Kovarikova was sent to a new school and lived with people she knew little about. To makes things more difficult, her first language was Czech, and she wasn’t used to everyone around her speaking in English.

It was a disorienting and stressful time. "No one ever sat down with me and talked about the trauma I experience by being removed from home or addressed the trauma inflicted at home at any point," she says.

Once she turned 16, Kovarikova started living on her own and dropped out of high school. While she was financially supported until 21, like many kids in care, "aging out" was difficult. She finally got on track and entered post-secondary school as a mature student and went on to receive a masters in economics. Kovarikova ultimately went on to research how to keep kids like herself from falling through the cracks and compiled a report for the Ontario Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth in 2017.

"The outcomes for children leaving care now are pretty bleak. Not because of the children," Kovarikova adds. "[The system's] goal is to protect you and keep you safe, not to raise a child to have the best chance at a future."

Her research found that youth leaving care experience high rates of mental health issues, unemployment, poverty, loneliness, and criminal involvement, suggesting the system hasn't gotten better at preparing kids for adulthood. Outcomes remained consistently negative over the past 40 years.

Kovarikova started a national non-profit organization, the Child Welfare Political Action Committee Canada (CW PAC) to make recommendations based on data. The group's four advocacy goals all urge an overhaul from the ground up.  

Read and watch here: Four ways a former crown ward would change Canada's child welfare system