The past year can be assessed as one of resilience and perseverance for the Halton Children’s Aid Society (Halton CAS).
Over the past year, Halton CAS—like other social service organizations in our community—accommodated itself to conditions of the post pandemic era in which ongoing vigilance and adherence to public health guidance became part of our daily experience. Throughout the year, the pandemic continued to heavily influence Halton CASs service delivery approach and workspace environment. Our pandemic plan, Building Better Together (BBT) was modified according to changes in public health and government guidance as well as staff feedback gathered through continuous consultation. As the tidal wave of the pandemic receded, we found ourselves returning to community placements, a more natural way of being together in the office and, of course, increased interpersonal contact with children, youth and families. The pandemic was a graphic reminder that child welfare work is the community’s work and that our relationships with community partners require constant engagement. We are proud of Halton CASs role as a reliable and supportive community partner. It is an exceptional example of the resilience of the agency.
Community collaboration was increasingly highlighted over the past year as communities struggled to coordinate services for children and youth with chronic or multi-faceted needs. Responding to these children and youth requires ongoing dialogue and creative problem solving across ministries and within each local community. This is an issue which absolutely requires the type of perseverance the families of children with complex needs have shown all their lives.
As the pandemic required less of our attention, Halton CAS turned its focus back toward the journey we have undertaken in becoming a diverse, equitable and inclusive agency. The work we had begun toward making the workspace safe and inclusive for all staff gained a new level of expertise and support. Our implementation of the Our One Vision, One Voice race equity practice framework was supported through the interpretation of data and hearing the stories of marginalized families. The outcomes sought require a consistent, intentional, and humble practice approach. It is deep and far-reaching work requiring constant perseverance.
In January 2023, we welcomed our first ever Truth and Reconciliation Lead. Truth and Reconciliation work is critical and far reaching. It is complex and nuanced and has to be built upon a solid foundation of training. Locally, we developed and nurtured relationships with colleagues of Six Nations of the Grand River and Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. We responded to all requests for information from First Nations Leaders and Community members searching for their children, youth or families who may have been involved with Halton CAS. We mourned the news of the finding of thousands of children’s remains in unmarked graves on the sites of residential schools across Canada and close to home at the Mohawk Institute in Brantford.
Restoration of jurisdiction to First Nations Communities for the well-being of their own children is taking place all across the country. In Ontario, there are 12 Indigenous Child and Family Well-Being Agencies whose mandate is the provision of child welfare services in their own communities within their own service philosophies. The development of Indigenous Child and Family Well-Being Agencies enriches the child welfare system in Ontario through Indigenous ways of knowing and teachings. Halton CAS stands with and supports Indigenous Child and Family Well-Being Agencies in persevering toward this restorative process.
Last year, the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services continued to socialize the sector on the five pillars of Child Welfare Redesign (CWR). CWR is a multi-year policy and service overhaul of the child welfare sector in Ontario with a focus on community service collaboration to achieve good outcomes for children and youth. Halton CAS is well positioned for CWR having solid community partner relationships and protocols in place.
It has been observed that resilience is the ability to achieve a positive outcome despite significant adverse circumstances. Resilience is a quality that contagiously inspires others. With great pride we celebrate the resilience of our staff and everyone else who persevered through the past year with a dedicated focus on the safety, well-being and success of children, youth and their families. Our staff are
talented and compassionate professionals who creatively work with families to chart pathways to lasting and positive change. They continually respond to situations of increased complexity in the post-COVID era, which has left lasting effects on the health and wellness of our community.
The gratitude we feel for foster, kin, and adoptive caregivers is immense. Their capacity for love and support for children is unparalleled and we recognize their critical role in our work. We honour and thank the volunteers who dedicate so much of their lives to supporting children, youth, and families. The support of volunteers is uniquely personal and impactful for any individual with whom they work. We recognize and thank our community colleagues across Halton Region who show up to case conferences, share their expertise, and assist us to help families. The Children’s Aid Foundation of Halton is a lifeline for Halton CAS, supporting the work we do both tangibly and generously.
We thank the Halton CAS Board of Directors. They are a constant source of guidance, support and wisdom, for all Halton CAS staff, but most particularly for the Leadership Team, working together with us unwaveringly toward the agency’s vision: “Children, Youth and Families Thrive.” A vision toward which we work, with resilience and perseverance.
Joyce See (Board Chair) Janice Robinson (Executive Director)