CAS: Building Strong Families
A pregnant woman arrives in Toronto, a refugee from her country of origin. Four days later, she is in the hospital, having her baby. Hospital staff learn she is living in a refugee shelter which does not allow children. She has no friends or family to help her. She has no supplies for taking care of her baby after it is born. She has received no medical care during her pregnancy, and she shows signs of having been tortured. The hospital, worried she will not be able to cope, calls the Children’s Aid Society.
One outcome of this story might be that once the woman has her baby, a social worker would arrive to take the newborn away from the mother and put the child into foster care. The mother would be left to fight for the return of her child, and given her circumstances, she is unlikely to succeed. In the best interests of the child, what other outcome could there be?
Many newcomers come from countries that do not have any child welfare or protection programs. Before leaving your country of origin, you were not given any information about what the Children’s Aid Society does. You do not know what the child protection laws are in Canada, and one day, a Children’s Aid worker arrives at your door. This can be a frightening experience. You do not know what will happen to your children, or to you.
The Children’s Aid Society of Toronto (CAS of Toronto) is a government-funded organization that was founded over 100 years ago to protect children from cruelty, neglect and abuse. Over time, as the city has changed – as of 2001, 49 percent of the people living here came from 169 countries and speak 100 languages! – CAS has also changed. It has developed a variety of services and policies not only for the care and protection of children, but also for families who are experiencing difficulties. CAS’s goal is to work with families to keep children in their homes wherever possible, and to work with families to help them overcome problems they may be having that are endangering the safety and welfare of their children.
Racism and oppression are barriers to achieving success, whether it is for the parent or the child. CAS of Toronto has developed an anti-oppression, anti-racism policy that will make sure the children and families under their care are treated with dignity and respect. One area where the policy has been put into effect is partnering with over 200 community and cultural organizations to help families work through their difficulties together.
Another area that the policy touches on is the Kinship program. When a child does have to be removed from his or her home, CAS will make every effort to place the child in a home of a relative or a family friend the child knows and trusts. It could be a foster home under the supervision of CAS, or it could be what the family court ordered. If children are placed in a home of people they know or from their own ethnic or cultural background, they do better because they are more likely to feel like they belong to a family.
CAS also has parenting programs to help parents learn and understand what is acceptable and what is not when it comes to caring for their children. In addition to their own programs, the Society will refer families to community organizations from the family’s ethnic or cultural background for more help.
Some of the other programs and services the Society is involved in are:
- New Horizons: Healing & Hope Coalition is a partnership between CAS of Toronto and agencies serving newcomer children, youth and families. The Coalition supports newcomer communities in developing ways to offer group programs for children, youth, parents (or other caregivers) affected by war, political oppression and what they have experienced before and after arriving in Canada. There is a group program for children 5-12 years of age being offered in ten of Toronto’s ethnic newcomer communities.
- Black Education and Awareness Committee is a CAS project created to help black youth of African descent learn about their heritage and to celebrate and take pride in their culture and history.
- Tamil Reference Group has CAS Scarborough Branch and the Tamil Service Providers Coalition working together to improve the services provided to Tamil families in the area better, including translating CAS brochures into Tamil and signing up Tamil families to be foster and kinship homes.
The goal of CAS of Toronto is to keep children safe and to build healthy families. Newcomers who are feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to turn for help with problems they are having in caring for their children can call CAS without fear. CAS is there to lend a helping hand and to keep families together wherever possible.
What happened to the pregnant refugee? The Children’s Aid worker moved the woman temporarily into a different shelter that allowed her to keep her child with her. The worker then went on to find better housing for her and connected mother and baby to people in her own cultural community so that they could give her the help she needed to carry on with her new life here in Toronto.
For more information about the Children’s Aid Society and its programs, or if you are interested in becoming a foster or kinship home, visit www.torontocas.ca or call
Aid Across Ontario
For families wanting or needing assistance who live outside of Toronto here is some information about other Children’s Aid Societies in Ontario. They all offer similar child protection and parenting education services as CAS of Toronto, as well as fostering and adoptive programs. Each one has its own programs, so please contact them using the information given below to find out what they offer.
The Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa
If you are looking for booklets on parenting and other information, Ottawa CAS has a number of publications available to download from its website, including its annual reports for the past few years. The booklet Positive Parenting is available for download (as a .pdf) or can be ordered as a hard copy and it comes in six languages: English, Arabic, Farsi, Chinese, Somali and Spanish.
For more information, contact:
- To report child abuse or neglect, call (613) 747-7800
- To become foster or adoptive parents, call (613) 742-1620
- To volunteer, call (613) 747-7800 ext. 2805
- For Human Resources: (613) 747-7800 ext. 2819 or 2115
- Champions For Children Foundation: (613) 745-1893
The Children’s Aid Society of Hamilton
Hamilton can now be counted among Canada’s most diverse cities with over 120 different languages being spoken there. CAS of Hamilton, therefore, developed a similar directive to CAS of Toronto regarding anti-racism, called the Anti-Racism Organizational Change Initiative. The report is available on the website, along with other information about the services CAS of Hamilton provides.
For more information, contact:
- The Children’s Aid Society of Hamilton
P.O. Box 1170, Depot 1 (26 Arrowsmith Rd.)
Hamilton, ON L8N 4B9
Phone: (905) 522-1121
After Hours: (905) 522-8053 (emergencies only)
Fax: (905) 572-6465
E-mail enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
Web site address: www.hamiltoncas.com
Please direct all child welfare concerns to their office using one of the above telephone numbers or you can visit the agency’s office. Any referrals/reports of concern should not be sent through the above e-mail address.
Windsor-Essex Children’s Aid Society
Visit the website at www.wecas.on.ca for information about the services provided as well as its role in child protection and family assistance, and for information about becoming a foster parent or adoption services.
For more information, contact:
- Windsor-Essex Children’s Aid Society (Windsor Location)
1671 Riverside Dr. E., Windsor, ON N8Y 5B5
Tel: (519) 252-1171
Fax: (519) 256-2739
- Windsor-Essex Children’s Aid Society
(Leamington Location) 15 John Str., Leamington, ON N8H 1H1
Tel: (519) 322-0555
Fax: (519) 322-0455
- To report child abuse or neglect, call (519) 252-1171 or 1-800-265-5609
To contact the different departments via e-mail: