Membership and the services of the CWLC 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.
The Child Welfare League of Canada is involved in working with foster families and foster care through the Parenting Resources Information Development Education (PRIDE) program, co-hosting the Centre of Excellence for Child Welfare and assisting governments through the National Consultation Centre to develop best practice models in regard to looking after vulnerable children and youth.
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 non-governmental organization in October 1994.