This year saw the continuation of pandemic responses on multiple levels across the Halton Children’s Aid Society (Halton CAS). It has been said that the pandemic is an accelerator, prompting change in service delivery with more urgency than in the previous environment. The pandemic also has been referred to as a magnifier of health, social, and economic inequities. At Halton CAS our experience mirrors each of these likenesses. Over the past year, as we learned to live within pandemic conditions, we responded to the needs of children, youth and families whose situations were intensified by the pandemic.
Implementing a newly developed hybrid work model, our service was conducted both virtually and in person, as required. Often, our front-line staff were the only social service responders out in the community seeing children, youth and families in person. We recognize and honour the dedication of child welfare workers in Halton and across Ontario. The past year saw increases in family issues such as mental health problems, substance abuse and addiction, and intimate partner violence. Our approach in the pandemic was to carefully assess the impact on families while strengthening the natural assets in families and their support systems.
The focus was on ameliorating, wherever we could, conditions of disadvantage and disparity for our children and youth in care. We increased the financial support for youth in and transitioning from care to alleviate stress and economic insecurity. The Halton Youth Collective Impact program successfully concluded its pilot and we are now seeking long-term funding to stabilize this program as a permanent community and CAS response to youth transitioning out of care to the age of 25. We embarked on a collaborative strategy with our partners at Reach Out Centre for Kids (ROCK) to increase local care for youth with complex needs. We worked at establishing and strengthening partnerships within the Black, Indigenous, Muslim and 2SLGBTQ+ communities to improve our ability to offer meaningful and helpful services to children, youth and families. We developed a pilot Diversity, Equity and Inclusion child welfare team to increase our capacity for culturally aligned service response. With gratitude, we engaged with the newly created Halton African Black Caribbean Committee (HABCC), whose experience and wisdom helps to shape equitable policies and services at Halton CAS.
Our staff were highly engaged in multiple training, learning, and development opportunities over the past year. Our management staff completed the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS) provincial Equity in Child Welfare training. All staff were provided the opportunity to complete the 4 Seasons of Indigenous Reconciliation training. There were also numerous opportunities throughout the year for staff to commemorate days and events of significance to the Indigenous, Black, Muslim and 2SLGBTQ+ communities. These occasions enrich us all and we look forward to including more communities in the upcoming year.
This year’s Annual Report theme is Providing the Wings for Our Youth to Soar. It is with great appreciation that we thank the dedicated staff of the Halton Children’s Aid Society. Without these compassionate people, our children, youth and families would not be able to soar to new heights. Our gratitude also goes to our foster, kin and adoptive caregivers for their steadfast commitment and caring for the children and youth with whom they share their homes. Thank you to our volunteers who spend countless hours and selfless dedication in many ways that enrich the lives of our children, youth and families. Our gratitude is further extended to our community partners and service professionals who bring their own expertise and compassion to the work we all do in Halton Region. Thank you as well to the donors to the Children’s Aid Foundation of Halton for adding hope to our children, youth and families. Lastly, we recognize the guidance and wisdom of our Board of Directors who assist us to keep Halton CAS on track to deliver on the vision, mission, values and service excellence that distinguishes us in the Halton community.
Emad Elsayed (Board Chair) Janice Robinson (Executive Director)