Since January, YSM’s Cornerstone Family Services has been piloting an innovative program with the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto (CAST) to provide an onsite reunion space where our staff supervises visits between Children’s Aid Society involved children and their parents.
This new program is part of YSM’s Cornerstone Partnership, a joint initiative with CAST which aims to provide positive and culturally-sensitive services and support to the high number of Black families and children involved with CAST.
By providing a safe, neutral, welcoming and supervised visiting space, the program lessens the sense of scrutiny some families experience, so as to lessen the threat of them being traumatized, such as when parents are expected to visit their children within the same organizations which may have originally taken them into care.
Frequency of our Cornerstone supervised visits can vary from three times a week to once a month. During them, parents interact with their children through various activities, including talking, playing with toys and games, creating arts and crafts, reading, walking in the park, or playing sports.
After having participated in staffing the visits to ensure families maintain their connections, even during rescribed periods of separation, our staff have received feedback from many families who indicated they find the visiting space offered by YSM welcoming and positive.
For one family, YSM staff celebrated a mother’s recent school graduation with a beautiful cake, much to the delight of the whole family. A Children’s Aid Society employee said the “kind and warm gesture brought a tear to [her] eye.”
From YSM’s perspective, the program has produced many positives: “So far, [it] has been a success,” shared Dale Thompson, YSM’s Care Management Supervisor. “Parents are feeling more comfortable, and ultimately, if the parents are successful then they’ll eventually get full-time custody [of their children] back, which is the desired outcome whenever possible.”