Many years before the Child Welfare League of Canada (CWLC) was founded, Canadians working in the field of child and youth services were active in the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA), the oldest and largest North American organization devoted to the well-being of children. Indeed, Canadian agencies and government departments have been members of the CWLA since the late 1920s.
In the mid 1980s, a number of Canadian members asked the CWLA to provide stronger membership services in Canada, and as a result, the CWLA hired a Canadian consultant to provide membership support and to conduct a needs assessment.
Two priorities emerged: first, the need for a Canadian public policy symposium and, second, the need to explore the potential for a stronger, more permanent CWLA presence in Canada, possibly with a Canadian office.
Working in partnership with the Canadian Council on Children and Youth and the Canadian Child Welfare Association, Canadian members of the CWLA proceeded to plan a major public policy symposium on children’s issues. The CWLA provided the secretariat function and seed funding during the planning phase and coordinated the symposium, called Canada’s Children: The Priority for the ‘90s, which was held in Ottawa in October 1991.
The symposium was a catalyst for more action at the national level through continuing alliances and follow-up with federal politicians and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. As a result of the conference, several provincial coalitions developed, which today continue to work on behalf of children and youth.
A Canadian office of the CWLA opened in Ottawa in January, 1992. It was able to respond to the need for a stronger emphasis on public policy and advocacy – functions that could not be handled by a headquarters in the U.S.
In May 1992, CWLA/Canada members set up a National Steering Committee, chaired by Monsignor William Irwin of Edmonton Catholic Social Services, to shape a Canadian organization. The goal was to provide member support not available from existing Canadian organizations and to work with other organizations to prevent duplication of effort.
The National Steering Committee recommended the establishment of the Child Welfare League of Canada, which would continue its affiliation with CWLA to ensure Canadian members access to special CWLA services and publications. The CWLA agreed to provide financial support for the Canadian organization for three years.
The Child Welfare League of Canada was incorporated under federal law in April 1994 and received its status as a charitable organization in October 1994.
Today, the Child Welfare League of Canada is a fully national organization with over 100 members in all provinces and territories, including representation at the federal level. Member organizations include provincial/territorial ministries of child and family services, child and family service agencies, health and social services, youth services and university research units and faculties. CWLC members serve over a million families and children each year.
As a membership organization CWLC provides leadership and support to its members, including technical assistance, timely information on research findings and best practices, and opportunities for networking across provincial/territorial borders.
CWLC membership and services are open and accessible to organizations and persons of all cultures, ethnic origins and social classes. CWLC provides services, publications and information in both official languages.