Associate Minister Jill Dunlop Visits FACS Niagara on December 10, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for everyone, but there is no doubt that many families and youth have been disproportionately and negatively impacted. To meet increased demands for services, our team members have been working around the clock to provide support and guidance to children, youth and their families in our region. As an organization and as a community, we have truly come together to ensure our service to families continues during these trying times.

It is for this exact reason that we were so pleased to receive a recent visit from Ontario’s Associate Minister of Children and Women’s issues, Jill Dunlop. There is a great deal of good work that is being accomplished here in the Niagara region, and Associate Minister Dunlop’s visit was a wonderful opportunity to share some good news and recognise the amazing efforts of our FACS team.

Though we met physically distanced, we were able to talk about the important role FACS Niagara plays particularly in supporting the success of our youth. Through programs like “New Outlooks and Beginnings”, a program to support youth transitioning to adulthood, “Home for the Holidays”, educational supports, and other initiatives,  we are able to ensure that youth in our region have the resources they need to be safe and continue to thrive.

Minister Dunlop also met with our Senior Manager of Equity, Diversity Inclusion and Honouring Identity, who highlighted the work our agency is doing to address systemic racism, while ensuring we provide culturally appropriate services and supports to families in our community.

The President of our CUPE Local was also onsite with us to talk about a number of Joint initiatives taking place in our organization. Organizational culture and the relationship with our team at CUPE Local…. is important to everyone, and critical to our ability to deliver effective and appropriate services to children, youth and families. We have been working with our CUPE partners to ensure we have a collaborative model where all staff voices are heard and are part of decisions that directly impact our entire FACS team, and our delivery of services.

Given the stressful nature of our work and the added stress of the pandemic, more than ever, we recognise the value of maintaining a healthy and supportive workplace culture. We value the important role of our CUPE Local and the collaborative relationship of our “Joint Pandemic Committee”, our” Joint Equity and Honouring Identity Committee”, and our “Joint Wellness Committee”.

Associate Minister Dunlop also learned about the work we have undertaken in establishing a dedicated Indigenous Services Team, in collaboration with our Indigenous community partners.  We were pleased to have three local Indigenous community leaders join us to meet with Minister Dunlop during her visit.  This collaboration reaffirms our ongoing commitment and recognition of the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in the care of Child Welfare. As an organization, we are working on an initiative which will not only repatriate children currently in care and establish reconnections within their own communities, but also prevent admissions to care while supporting the Indigenous community’s capacity for self-determination within the context of a child welfare intervention.

While 2020 was an incredibly challenging year, we are so very proud of our team and appreciative of the funding and community support that has enabled us to continue to reach out to children, youth and families in so many creative ways in alignment with the Ontario “Child Welfare Redesign”. We are truly appreciative of Associate Minister Dunlop visit to our organization and we look forward to the opportunity to provide further updates on our initiatives in 2021.