The Family & Children's Services of St. Thomas and Elgin is alive with history
Our roots date back to January 30, 1894, when a group of St. Thomas' more influential citizens gathered at Trinity Church School to listen to J.J. Kelso, the provincial Superintendent of Neglected and Dependent Children, speak about the advantages of forming a Children's Aid Society. The meeting voted unanimously to form an Elgin County Society. James H. Coyne was elected the first president, E.S. Miller was secretary, and William Fairbrother was hired part time to do some of the child protection work.
In the beginning, not everyone was convinced that a small rural community needed a children's aid society. The Society almost folded a couple of times due to inactivity and a lack of financial support. But thanks to a few dedicated souls the agency continued to operate and progress.
In 1906, the Society opened a children's shelter at 113 Wellington Street to provide short term care until a more permanent foster home could be found for a child in need. A bigger shelter was built on George Street in 1926 to meet the increasing demand for institutional care. It closed in 1938 when the society returned to their original intent of placing children in foster homes to provide them with a more normal upbringing.
Since then, the Society has concentrated on strengthening the family. In the late 1960's a number of prevention and support programs were designed to keep families together, many of which continue today. The current list of programs is impressive: the Family Counselling Services, parenting groups, Moms and Tots programs, Mother's relief program and a variety of self help groups.
Now over 100 years old, many of the society's original documents and publications survive, carefully preserved and displayed at FACS-Elgin's current home at 410 Sunset Drive. The budget has grown to 10 million dollars per year and the staff now numbers in the nineties, but the basic purpose of the society is unchanged - to protect children from abuse and neglect.
- The St. Thomas Children's Aid Society was the sixth society to be established in Ontario.
- On Septemter 22, 1933, the agency was formally incorporated by the Ontario Legislature.
- In 1939 Catherine Cox became the first professional social worker hired by the Society.
- In 1976 the agency changed its name to Family and Children's Services of St. Thomas and Elgin to reflect the agency's commitment to preserving the family.
- The Rotary Group Home on Steele Street provided care to adolescent boys and girls for almost 20 years before it was closed in 1994.
- In 1950, FACS-Elgin moved to 27 Southwick and remained there for 40 years, until moving into the state of the art headquarters at 410 Sunset Drive in 1991.