CHILD PROTECTION SERVICES
Family and Children’s Services is a Children’s Aid Society, mandated under Ontario’s Child and Family Services Act to protect children and youth from abuse and neglect. The agency is a private non-profit corporation formed and operated by concerned citizens in St. Thomas and Elgin County and funded by the Province of Ontario. Our work reflects the community’s values in protecting vulnerable children and youth, and assisting families.
Each year, hundreds of referrals of alleged child abuse or neglect, child abandonment, or severe conflicts between parents and children are investigated and assessed by agency Child Protection Workers. Calls come from concerned professionals, citizens, or from family members. Everyone must by law, report suspected child abuse or neglect to Family and Children’s Services. Referrals may be made 24 hours per day, seven days per week. In many instances, the child protection worker will offer counselling and referral services to address identified problems. Follow-up services are often provided by a mutual agreement between the worker and the family.
In cases where there is no mutual working agreement, the agency may request the intervention of the Ontario Court, Provincial Division. If the worker feels that a child cannot be protected in his or her own home, the child will be placed in a place of safety. Such places may include a family or community placement called a Kinship home or foster home.
EARLY INTERVENTION SUPPORT SERVICES
Early Intervention Support Services encompasses the provision of in-home support, education guidance, assessment, family visiting, small group work and community linkages for parents of young children (infant to age 5) who have been identified as being at risk for abusing or neglecting their children. The services provided are in alignment with the “Building Families” Early Years Program to assist families to mitigate the risk of abuse and neglect through education regarding enhanced parent-child relationships, improved life management skills such as nutrition, budgeting, self-esteem and assertiveness, as well as the promotion and development of more effective and nurturing parenting skills aimed at building capacity and resilience in families.
CHILD PROTECTION SUPPORT SERVICES
Child Protection Support Services encompass the coordination and provision of community and in-home support, education, guidance, assessment, family visiting and community linkages for families receiving child protection services. Child Protection Support Workers work in conjunction with Child Protection Workers to assist families in implementing the strategies necessary to mitigate risks and build capacity and resilience. These services are aimed at admission prevention, family reunification, permanency planning and are integral to the overall assessment of the family’s capacity to integrate taught skills, as well as provide the necessary safety factors identified in the Plan of Service.
KINSHIP SERVICES (out of care)
Kinship Service is typically the first and least intrusive option for children and youth who are no longer able to reside in their family home due to safety concerns. Kinship Service is considered a less intrusive measure because it does not require a child to be brought into the care of Family and Children’s Services – which is generally a better option for children and families. Living with kin –people the child is comfortable and connected with – can make this difficult time easier for a child.
KINSHIP CARE (in care)
A child placed in a Kinship Care home is brought into the care of Family and Children’s Services. Kinship Care provides a familiar home for the child and is a good alternative to foster care for some children. In these situations, the agency becomes the child’s legal guardian and assumes the rights and responsibilities associated with being a child’s guardian.
FOSTER CARE SERVICES
The Foster Care program includes the recruitment, screening, training, support and utilization of families to provide care to children and youth who can no longer live with their own family. Most placements are temporary, while other services are provided to help a family through a crisis and make the home safe for the child’s return.
We provide a Children’s Services Worker for children or youth who come into the care of the Society. The Children’s Services Worker is responsible to manage the planning and oversee the care of the child or youth while in the Society’s care. The case management responsibilities include arranging regular plans of care for the child that involve the foster parent, the family and other important people in the child’s life. Plans of Care are held to ensure that the planning for the child/youth incorporates all the dimensions of a child/youth’s life that are important to them as well as ensuring that the child’s needs are met.
YOUTH IN TRANSITION
The Youth in Transition program is available for all youth in care who are preparing to transition into independence. This program offers support, advocacy and teaching in the areas of finance/budgeting, mental health, addictions, and any other areas that may help youth reach their full potential in their life. The program is youth driven and helps support youth in care to be better prepared for life after their time in care has come to an end.
GROUP COUNSELLING SERVICES
Various counselling groups are provided in partnership with other community agencies. Groups offered include Parent/Teen Solution, Caring Dads, and Parenting Groups. Families are referred from the child protection staff of this agency, as well as community sources such as Elgin St. Thomas Public Health Unit, physicians, and mental health counsellors.
FAMILY VISITING SERVICES
Family Visiting services are provided where alternate less intrusive methods of family contact is either unavailable or deemed to be inappropriate. Family visits are facilitated along an access continuum according to the level of service required and risk involved. Family Visiting is facilitated to support ongoing attachment as an important and vital aspect of a child’s healthy development. Family visiting provides learning opportunities through teaching according to a strengths-based model.
Adoption occurs when a child becomes a permanent member of another family. Our child-centered foster to adopt program minimizes change for children and youth. Whenever possible, foster parents adopt the children placed with them if the children become available for adoption.
ADOPTION DISCLOSURE SERVICES
Information, counselling, and referral services are available to adult adoptees and their birth family members who wish to learn about or re-establish contact with someone separated by adoption. Persons may seek information such as a social or medical history, or may request to meet a birth child or parent.
Volunteers contribute their knowledge, skills and enthusiasm in support of the agency’s programs and the families we serve. They drive children and parents to and from appointments, provide child care in agency programs, befriend clients,and much, much more.