Explain to us what inspired you to get into this work?
As a young Social Work student, I had the opportunity to complete an internship at Windsor Essex Children's Aid Society. It was through this experience that I was able to begin to appreciate the complexities of the child welfare sector and the many challenges that families are charged to overcome; be it generational abuse, limited opportunities for families who represent equity seeking groups, substance dependence, domestic violence, and/or poverty to name a few. I have had the privilege to be witness to the resilience and grit of the human spirit when individuals are able to overcome these challenges and work towards making an individual change which positively impacts the whole family system. The inspiration to continue on in this work comes from a desire to support and sustain a service response which is person centered, anti-oppressive, creates opportunity for everyone, honors the uniqueness of each individual and at the end of the day, leaves people in a better spot.
There remain some preconceived notions about the role of CAS. Could you explain to us what services are offered through CAS, who you support, and why these services are critical for communities?
Thanks for asking that question, I love to highlight that the majority of our work is with individuals and families in the community. I've often had to dispel the myth that child welfare service responses always include children coming into a foster home. We have been able to create a service response that recognizes children and youth are always a part of a larger network that care and support them and we strive to keep families together while planning for safety. We have a Family Violence Counselling program, as well that is available to anyone in the community who is experiencing abuse or wants to stop using abusive tactics in an intimate partner relationship. Our programs are for children, youth, women and men and are separate but complimentary to our child welfare services. We are a strong service partner and work collaboratively with other services to make sure that we are all working together in a way that supports the community as a whole. In addition, we also have some great programs that are available to everyone in the community, regardless if child welfare service is involved. Our early help offerings in the community include afterschool programs, breakfast programs as well as educational supports so children and youth are able to realize their full potential. We are lucky to have parent volunteers who support the community and are targeted to increasing community belongingness for children and youth.
June is PRIDE month, and we’d like to know what CAS does to ensure kids and youth feel included and seen?
In all of the services we provide, we honor the uniqueness and strength of each individual. This might include having opportunity for mentorship, ensuring our physical space is inclusive or participating in advocacy for children and youth who are struggling in their identity. We strive to offer a service response that resonates for all individuals who receive our service. This includes ensuring that we know who we are serving by asking for identity data which informs our service response for the people we serve. As an organization, we have a strong emphasis upon Equity and Inclusion and are committed to creating a safe service offering everyone by ensuring staff receive training and support in creating a psychologically safe space for all individuals. We have membership with the Rainbow Coalition in our community which has created community training opportunities for all service providers.
Is there anything else you’d like us to know about CAS and the work you do in Oxford County?
The main thing that I would like for everyone to know is that as a service resource network, DART’s intention to creating a healthy and vibrant community that is safe and responsive is a goal that The Children’s Aid Society and Family Violence Counselling program is proud to be a part of. Our best hope is that we are a part of a strong service network that is able to connect people to the service they need, regardless of which service they reach out to.