In Canada, John Joseph Kelso, a newspaper reporter for the Toronto World and later the Globe, devoted his life to securing a better system of providing for children’s social and emotional needs. Initially disturbed by the ill treatment of animals, he was a founding member and first president of the Toronto Humane Society in 1887. By 1891, he established the first Children’s Aid Society in Toronto. In 1893 Canada’s first Children’s Act was passed in parliament: An Act for the Prevention of Cruelty to and Better Protection of Children.
Foster care emerged by the latter half of the 19th century in response to beliefs that a substitute family was a more appropriate place than an institution for a child to build character and receive positive influence.
The assumption at the time was that children in institutions learned what were perceived to be evil or idle habits from one another and generally did not have the chance to morally improve. Organizations like Dr. Barnardo’s Homes placed orphaned British children with Ontarian families to provide farm labour and domestic service in return for what they hoped would be a better life. Dr. Barnardo’s Homes provided the model for Ontario’s first foster homes.
Foster parents received no remuneration and were expected to ensure the child’s attendance at school and Sunday school, while providing food, clothing and support to the child’s character development.