Former foster kid first to lead local Children’s Aid in 126-year history

In more than a century, only one other board chair with lived experience as led an agency

History was made Tuesday at Simcoe Muskoka Family Connexions (formerly known as Children’s Aid), as Jane Kovarikova stepped into the role as board chair, the first foster kid to head the agency in its 126-year history.

Kovarikova is the founder of the Child Welfare Political Action Committee Canada (Child Welfare PAC).

“Jane has been a valued board member for many years, and we are thrilled for her to be chair,” said Geraldine Dooley-Phillips, executive director. “Her experience as a former youth in care and her research in the child welfare system gives her a unique understanding that serves to challenge and improve strategic directions for the organization and more importantly, to promote better outcomes for children, youth and families.”

Board members are responsible for oversight and governance at each of the 51 regional agencies in Ontario. In more than a century, only one other board chair with lived experience as a foster child has led an agency in the province.

“I am proud of the Simcoe Muskoka agency for recognizing the value of lived experience. They are among the very few leading Ontario with inclusion at the highest levels of the organizational structure,” said Kovarikova, who grew up in foster care in Simcoe and is now completing her PhD at Western University. “Understanding systemic challenges through board participation and lived experience are crucial to being effective. We cannot complain about the system on one hand and then withhold our wisdom on the other.”

Kovarikova encourages all with lived experience to consider joining local Children’s Aid governance boards.

“Participation comes with its own unique challenges when you have lived experiences. I know this first hand,” said Kovarikova. “The Child Welfare PAC is committed to building capacity for any prospective board members.”