Fewer Canadian Aboriginal Children in Foster Care

Three social enterprises compete for $45k in cash and consulting prizes at Social Enterprise Heroes Mar. 27.

Fewer Canadian Aboriginal Children in Foster Care

Ktunaxa Kinbasket Child and Family Services one of three B.C. social enterprises recognized, awarded at annual Social Enterprise Heroes event

VANCOUVER, B.C. - When Social Enterprise Heroes presenter Angie Louie showed a picture of herself at four-years old, nearly two hundred audience members became very quiet.

Angie is a member of Montana’s Crow tribe, and the picture was taken days after she was removed from her family and placed into foster care. Her long, dark braids had been cut into a short pixie and she was wearing a pink, flowered jumpsuit.

  Angie Louie presented at Social Enterprise Heroes Mar. 27.

Angie would grow up in foster care, often living in different U.S. states than her family. Feeling lost without her language or customs, she grew into an angry, self-destructive youth seeking solace in drugs and alcohol.

By 17, Angie was homeless. By 18, she had a baby girl.

“I gave her up as I felt so unworthy of her,” Angie tells the audience.

She tried to take her life twice.

Now, Angie is part of an innovative solution to keep aboriginal children in their communities and homes. It’s this model she presented as part of Social Enterprise Heroes, an annual contest that sees three social enterprises present their business opportunity or challenge to win $45,000 of cash and in-kind consulting prizes.

According to Angie, her story is not unique. In Canada, 60 per cent of aboriginal children are living in foster care. In some places, the number of aboriginal children living in foster care tops 90 per cent.

The financial costs associated with taking care of children by the government are $10,000-$120,000 per year, depending on the needs of the child.

Unwilling to allow the vicious cycle to continue, Angie, along with her colleague Eva Coles at Ktunaxa Kinbasket Child and Family Services Society, decided to try something different. They sought advice from elders of the Ktunaxa Traditional Territory where they were working collaboratively with aboriginal families and communities to decrease foster care rates.

They met with experts in the field and explored best practices to keep families and communities healthy and resilient.

The result is a mix of traditional practices and strengths-based community development that is making a major impact in the Ktunaxa Traditional Territory. Since implementing the model they've reduced the rates of children in foster care by 50 per cent in five years.

Seventy per cent of the families they’ve been supporting have not returned for follow-up services for three years.


The model is attracting much attention. Inundated with calls and requests to share their work, Ktunaxa Kinbasket Child and Family Services launched a training and consulting social enterprise with the purpose of bringing their practices to the child welfare system at large.

The social workers launched the social enterprise last year without business experience or even a business card. They’ve served 20 customers, landed three consulting contracts, and trained or given talks in Arizona, California, Norway and Australia.

Now, they need business expertise and mentorship to help them scale their business and impact. They asked the Social Enterprise Heroes to help them get there.

The evening saw two other social enterprise leaders pitch their business models for a chance to win consulting services from businesses like KPMG, JDQ Systems and Junxion Strategy, among other prizes.

Heather Johnstone from the Edible Garden Project presented on Loutet Farm. The .5 acre farm in North Vancouver is showing that small-scale farming in an urban setting can generate bumper crops while reconnecting residents to the social and environmental benefits of eating local, organic food.

Tradeworks executive director Maninder Dhaliwal says their latest Downtown Eastside social enterprise called Fab Shop may look like its building wood planters, benches and sheds. What Fab Shop really does is build skills, confidence and hope for at-risk youth.

  Maninder Dhaliwal asks the heroes for support to increase Fab Shop's revenue, helping them hire more at-risk youth.

All three social enterprises walked away with cash and consulting prizes including $15,000 for Ktunaxa Kinbasket Child and Family Services.

Angie says the funds will go a long way in building their social enterprise.

“We’re social workers and family support workers so we need help getting that off the ground and this will definitely help, so I am excited about that,” she says.

B.C.’s First Social Impact Bond?
TELUS and Vancity Community Foundation earmarked $5,000 of its $10,000 prize to Ktunaxa Kinbasket to explore a new concept called Social Impact Bonds with the B.C. government.

The bond would see the government and Ktunaxa Kinbasket agree to decrease the number of children entering foster care by applying Ktunaxa Kinbasket’s model for a set amount of years in a set region.

If Ktunaxa Kinbasket succeeds, a portion of the government’s savings would be split with the social enterprise.

Social Enterprise Heroes judge and TELUS vice-president of B.C. small and medium business Michael McCarthy says the model has potential to transform how care is delivered in family and children services.

“I think all of the judges were quite touched by the impact (Ktunaxa Kinbasket) has on the community, and in particular the 70 per cent success rate speaks to a great pilot project,” he says.

The fifth annual Social Enterprise Heroes, hosted by Enterprising Non-Profits, took place March 27 at the Roundhouse Community Arts Centre.

— More to Come

— Photo credit: Bill Beatty

Axiom News is a media sponsor for Social Enterprise Heroes.

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Writer Bio

Camille Jensen's picture
Camille Jensen

Camille Jensen is an employee share ownership consultant with ESOP Builders, Canada’s largest provider of employee share ownership plans (ESOPs) for small- and medium-sized enterprises.

Prior to joining ESOP Builders, Camille was a generative journalist and team member at Axiom News. She credits her time at Axiom as fundamental to her understanding that business is one of the best opportunities to make a difference in the world.

Camille is a B.C. Partner for Social Impact and volunteer with Okanagan Changemakers.

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