On Thursday, February 9, 2017 the Honourable Michael Coteau, Minister for Children and Youth Services, paid a visit to the Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Hamilton. The purpose for the visit was for the Minister to experience first-hand the workings of a child welfare agency in our region and to talk directly with key stakeholders about what is working in the system and what challenges the system is facing.
Minister Coteau met with representative from the Society including the agency’s Executive Director, Rocco Gizzarelli, the Society’s President, John Lewis, Bishop Douglas Crosby, Bishop of Hamilton, as well as staff and resource parents. During the discussion the Minister was updated on the agency’s Community Based Model of Service where our agency works with strong collaborative partners across the city including social services, education and health services as well as other CAS’s within the region. We are working together to ensure the best possible outcomes for the children, youth and families. There was a productive discussion around issues impacting the delivery of child welfare services in the community. After the meeting the Minister stated “This is an organization that was not built here in the building but out in the community. It is evident in the work you do and in the success stories of the youth I met today.”
Another of the highlights of the Minister’s visit was an opportunity for him to sit down with a number of youth who are or who have been in the care of the Society. The group was able to have an open discussion about what it is youth in care and those youth about to leave or having left care, need to ensure the best outcomes possible for their future. The youth were thrilled with the opportunity to meet with the Minister. One stated “My voice was actually being heard, and they’re actually willing to make a difference” while another said “It was a privilege for all of us because he took the time to come to meet with us and to listen to us”. After gathering with the youth Bishop Crosby stated “I am always so impressed by the young people at the agency. They are so resilient, so positive and inspiring.”
“We are grateful that Minister Coteau took the time to visit and have an open discussion about our faith based child protection services” says Rocco Gizzarelli.” The Minister is very committed to a strong child welfare system in Ontario that focuses on serving people in their community and addresses their needs at a local level while maintaining transparency and accountability. The minister spoke about the proposed legislation putting the child at the center of decision making that is culturally relevant and affirmed the importance of maintaining faith based organizations in the system and much can be learned from the work we do.
For more than 63 years the Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Hamilton has provided vital programs and services to our community. Our work in the child welfare field in Ontario is recognized for its innovative approaches in our service delivery model and our strong connections with community partners. Guided by Catholic values and teachings we serve children and youth within the Hamilton community by protecting their safety and well-being, strengthening their families and nurturing lifelong relationships.