Why Alo Solutions is needed in Child Welfare

Over at least the past two years, the media has been filled with disturbing headlines on child welfare:

The above are just a handful of headlines that speak to what Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott called a “humanitarian crisis” in 2017.  Since 2017, there have been some steps taken by the Federal Government to address the over-representation of Indigenous and African Canadian children in care.

Current Landscape 

Bill C-92 that came into effect on January 1, 2020, was a major step in the right direction. Co-developed with Indigenous, provincial, and territorial partners, Bill C-92, is “An act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families will finally enshrine into law what Indigenous peoples across Canada have asked of governments for decades: to affirm and recognize their jurisdiction over child and family services.”

In theory, Bill C-92 creates a new foundation upon which the Canadian child welfare system operates; however, history and patterns are not easily forgotten and/or changed. In addition, it takes time to change an entire system, especially, if the tools remain the same. The government has committed an additional $1.4 billion to the Canadian child welfare system. This is on top of the $9 billion currently budgeted.

From The perspective of many stakeholder groups:

  • Those working within the system – social workers
  • Children in care
  • Parents who have their children in care
  • Foster Parents
  • Adoptive Families;
  • Child Family Services; and
  • Government and Private Child service organizations

the system clearly needs to be overhauled from the ground up, and this is where Alo Solutions comes into play.

What does Alo offer?

Can you believe that many child welfare agencies are still managed by Excel files? The lives of thousands of children, foster parents, parents, adoptive parents are determined by Excel sheets and susceptible to human error by overextended social workers who often follow the path of least resistance due to their workloads.

Sarah Sparks, founder of Alo Solutions’, explains that Alo Solutions is, at its centre, a case management system and that Alo Solutions’ systems “ are all designed to keep children within their communities first, and if that is not something that can happen, then we need to know that the people that are taking care of our children are committed to keeping them close to their communities and their cultures.” This is a massive undertaking for a broken system; however, Alo Solutions’ is a fully automated, cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) that is a customizable customer relationship management tool (CRM).

Alo Solutions’ founder, Sarah Sparks, and co-founder, Devin Edwards, are hoping that as their solution has been developed from within the Indigenous and African Canadian communities, this will foster trust in their solution from these communities.

Research

Sarah’s own application process to become a foster parent provided first-hand experience. In addition Alo Solutions’ market research, has uncovered that there is a lot of variance in the way that stakeholders in the system apply the rules.

In an interview conducted with Wanda John-Kehewin, a former Family Cultural Connection Worker in British Columbia, Alo Solutions found much of their why further supported. The individual interviewed left their position as they felt that “Things needed to change and that is why I am not in there any more.” Essentially social workers burn out from the workload, the lack of coherence across the system, and always fighting an uphill battle. Alo Solutions wants to be part of the change that the system needs and part of the solution for all stakeholders.

In addition, their research has highlighted an overwhelming inherent, systemic bias towards indigenous and African Canadians through the types of questions asked in many of the standard documents for perspective foster and adoptive parents, for example, the Safe Study questionnaires.

Alo’s founders are solution orientated and have a keen interest in addressing the systemic issues in the Canadian child welfare system. The recently announced legislative changes through Bill C-92 and funding will go a long way towards supporting a new era for the Canadian child welfare system.

The Future

The Alo team knows that they have an uphill battle, but they feel strongly that their tool benefits all stakeholder groups within the Canadian welfare system. Modernizing the system’s operation would transform workloads for social workers, kinship, foster and adoption applications, and public and private organizations. Alo is also planning to develop more add-ons based on the client’s needs.

Sarah Sparks and Devin Edwards feel strongly that the system needs an overhaul from the backend and that their technology offers a way forward; a next-generation solution for better outcomes for children in care.