Female social worker talking with a teenager.

The Belonging Network has four dedicated Permanency Support Specialists on staff. Their entire focus is on finding families or permanency connections for children and youth who are often considered “hard to place.” These children and youth often wait the longest for a match because they are part of a sibling group and/or have significant support needs, and are at high risk of leaving care without permanency. 

We’re grateful to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption for funding two of these positions through their Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program, and to the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) for funding the other two. 

Permanency Support Specialists receive requests to assist with permanency planning for children and youth from guardianship social workers from MCFD or Indigenous Child and Family Service Agencies. A Continuing Custody Order must be in place for a referral to be accepted.  

When the Permanency Support Specialist activates the file, they hold an intake meeting and create a plan with the child’s guardianship worker and team leader.  

The specialist then spends several days reviewing the child’s file, gathering info about:  

  • Why the child came into care, their health and development, behaviour assessments, education, relationships, interests, culture 
  • Birth family (for further family finding, sharing with an adoptive family, and for the child’s life book) 
  • The child’s network (previous and current people of significance who could be approached about adopting or becoming significant lifelong support to the child) 

The specialist’s role can vary depending on each child’s needs and what their guardianship worker has already done.  

Permanency Support Specialists use a specialized, time-intensive approach to find permanent family or lifelong connections.

  • First, they look to the child’s birth family and Indigenous band or nation (if applicable) 
  • Next, they explore the child’s network (those known to the child – current or previous foster parent, counsellor, education assistant, school teacher, sports coach, music teacher, church, neighbour….) 
  • Finally, the specialists look to approved and waiting prospective adoptive families to see if any of them could be a match.

Some of the other things Permanency Support Specialists do include: 

  • Creating genograms 
  • Gathering photos and life book info for the child
  • Seeking out more details on the child’s medical and social history  
  • Communicating with family about permanency planning

Permanency Support Specialists visit the children and youth on their caseloads regularly. They build relationships with each child, learn about who they are, and talk to them about permanency. 

Here are some of the things they do during visits:

  • Do fun activities tailored to the child or youth’s interests, like crafts, games, bowling, eating out, or hiking
  • Read books about adoption or other topics that relate to the child or youths’ needs, such as books about how to control your impulses or deal with worries
  • Work on the child or youth’s life book
  • Help the child or youth come up with a list of people who might want to connect with them or adopt them
  • Talk with the child about permanency and tell them about the benefits of adoption
  • Talk about different kinds of families, what kind of family the child or youth wants, their feelings about the process, and anything else that comes up  
  • Prepare and support the child or youth with the transition to their new family 
  • Continue supporting the child as needed, from post-placement until finalization (visits typically continue for about three months post-placement).  

Permanency Support Specialists also work with many other people connected to the child or youth, including foster parents, the new permanency family, and MCFD or the ICFSA. Here is what they do.

Foster family

  • Gather information from the foster family about the child or youth’s attributes and needs, so that they can find the right kind of adoptive family or permanency placement 
  • Gather information from the foster family about the child’s friends and other relationships
  • Support the foster parents during permanency planning and through the process of transitioning the child to their new family

Adoptive or permanency family

  • Work closely with their adoption social worker to create a successful transition and provide some direct support as needed, in conjunction with the adoption worker.  


  • Provide quarterly updates about their work
  • Strategize about the child or youth’s plan and review next steps
  • Communicate regularly about any updates, changes, or progress
  • Attend meetings about the child  
  • Assist with creating a schedule for the transition to the adoptive or permanency family. 
  • Once the child is placed, request updates from the adoption worker about how the child is doing

If you have questions about the Permanency Support Specialists’ work, or if you’re a social worker who wants to make a referral, please contact permanency@belongingnetwork.com.