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The History of Child Welfare in Ontario

The founder of the Children's Aid Societies of Ontario was J.J. Kelso of Toronto. Kelso was born in Ireland in 1864 and immigrated to Canada with his parents in 1874. Family misfortunes made it impossible for him to continue in school so he soon had to go to work as a shoeshine boy. However, he developed a desire to become a newspaper reporter and, after some years of hard work trying to educate himself by reading etc., he was finally able to obtain a job as a printer with one of the Toronto newspapers. While working as a printer, he contributed articles to the paper and, in 1885; he began to work with the Toronto World as a reporter.

He soon became very concerned with the living and working conditions of children in Toronto. In his capacity as a police reporter he was in daily contact with the squalor and poverty in Toronto's slum areas. Education was not compulsory and thousands of children attended school only occasionally. Many children, girls as well as boys, were sent on the street to sell papers, shoelaces, pencils, etc., at ages as young as six or seven. Probably Kelso's greatest concern was the treatment of juvenile offenders. Children as young as eight or nine who had been arrested stood in the dock with hardened criminals and were tried in the same manner.  They were sentenced to terms of imprisonment in Penetanguishine to become criminals for life and enemies of the society that neglected and scorned them.

One night while walking on Younge Street he came across two children, both under ten years, begging and weeping, afraid to go home because they had secured very little money and therefore would be beaten. With a great deal of difficulty, Kelso found a charitable institution kind enough to take them in for the night. However, when the parents were brought into the police court the next morning charged with gross neglect, the magistrate dismissed the case on the grounds that parents could do as they liked with their children. There was no law of any kind for the protection of children.

Kelso set out to try to alleviate the conditions under which children lived and to press for legislation for the protection of children from neglect and for the separate trial of juvenile offenders.

The Children's Protection Act of 1887 defined a neglected child and provided that a municipality could, if it so wished, establish a Children's Aid Society to enforce the Act. There was no compulsion to do so. Kelso set out on a campaign to have C.A.S. established in every county. He traveled from municipality to municipality, speaking at public gatherings and to interested groups. Progress was slow at first, but after a few years it gained momentum.

In 1888 he founded the Toronto Fresh Air Fund and Santa Claus Fund. (He also founded the Toronto Humane Society in 1887, at the age of 23.) Also in 1887, along with Mr. Beverly Jones, he proposed an ACT FOR THE PROTECTION AND REFORMATION OF NEGLECTED CHILDREN, which was passed by the legislature in 1888.

In 1891 he founded the Toronto Children's Aid Society. In 1893 he agitated for Mother's Allowances and Workmen's Compensation. On July 1, 1893, he was appointed the first Superintendent of Neglected and Dependent Children for Ontario.

In 1898 he assisted in the drafting of Manitoba's Child Welfare legislation and assisted in the organization of the Winnipeg Children's Aid Society. He did the same in British Columbia where he assisted in the organization of the Victoria and Vancouver Children's Aid Societies.

In 1904 he emptied Penetanguishine Reformatory. In 1905, he closed the Ontario Refuge for Girls and Mercer Reformatory and assisted in the organization of the Halifax and New Glasgow Children's Aid Societies. In 1912 he was instrumental in organizing the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies.

The History of Highland Shores Children’s Aid

In November of 2010, the Commission to Promote Sustainable Child Welfare issued a recommendation that the Children’s Aid Societies for the counties of Hastings, Northumberland and Prince Edward merge into a new corporation in order to improve services to children in care, to realize economies of scale and to enhance quality, service expertise and managerial capacity. 

Initial conversations between Hastings and Northumberland evolved into a willingness to explore amalgamation with Prince Edward officially joining the discussion in February of 2011. 

On April 5th, the three Societies held a joint press conference at the Hastings Children’s Aid Society to announce the approval of an Amalgamation Plan by their three Boards of Directors.  The Plan was sent to the Commission on March 31, 2011.  A key component of the Boards’ agreement to endorse the Plan was the understanding that the Ministry would cover any historical debts incurred by the three Societies and would provide financial assistance in order to cover transition costs inherent with amalgamation.  In late March, the three Societies were advised by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services that they would each be receiving a one-time grant which was to be used for retirement of prior years debt.  This funding put the three Societies in a stable financial position as they proceeded with the amalgamation process.

The Commission was impressed by the client focus reflected in the Plan and the emphasis that was placed on services to clients across the entire region that would be served by the new agency.  The Plan was forwarded by the Commission to the Ministry of Children and Youth Services on April 21st, 2011.

It was agreed that the headquarters for the new corporation would be 363 Dundas St. in Belleville. 

Project teams were formed from each of the three Societies.  These groups developed plans to successfully implement the new service model developed as part of the Amalgamation Plan.

In September of 2011, the Children’s Aid Society of the County of Prince Edward made the decision to withdraw from the amalgamation process.  The remaining two Societies confirmed their intention to continue to move forward with their plans to amalgamate their agencies by April 1, 2012.

A review and update of the original amalgamation plan was undertaken to reflect the withdrawal of PECAS and that revised plan was subsequently provided to the Ministry of Children and Youth Services.

First Nations/Aboriginal, Foster Parent and Youth Advisory Committees were included in the governance structure for the new Society.

On January 11, 2012 at a Joint Special General Meeting of the members of the Hastings Children’s Aid Society and the Children’s Aid Society of Northumberland, the Pre-Amalgamation Agreement was approved.  Articles of Amalgamation which included an Amalgamation Agreement, an Application of Letters Patent of Amalgamation and the By-laws for the new organization were also approved.

Members of the two Societies also voted for a new governance structure.  Previously, a ten-member Transition Board with Co-Chairs from both Societies was in place with responsibility to implement the amalgamation of the two Societies.  At the meeting, the members elected a single, 10-member cross-appointed Combined Board.  This Board replaced the Transition Board and the Boards of both Societies.  This governance structure will remain in place until the first Annual General Meeting of the amalgamated Society which is scheduled to take place in June of 2012.

On January 12th, 2012, the Combined Board announced that Mark Kartusch would assume the role of Executive Director of both Hastings Children’s Aid Society and the Children’s Aid Society of Northumberland and subsequently of the amalgamated Society as of April 1, 2012.  Mr. Kartusch had been Director of Services for the HCAS for eight years.  The Combined Board also announced that the new name of the amalgamated Society as of April 1st would be Highland Shores Children’s Aid.  This name is reflective of the geographies of the two Societies within the Hastings Highlands and hills of Northumberland and along the shores of the Bay of Quinte and Lake Ontario.

The two Societies merged on April 1, 2012 and had a combined staff of approximately 300.

On November 2, 2012 the Board of Directors of the Children's Aid Society of the County of Prince Edward announced that the Society was exploring opportunities to join services with another agency to ensure the best possible service and support to the children and families of the County.  On November 9, 2012 the PECAS Board announced that they had voted in favour of merging with Highland Shores Children's Aid. In order to further facilitate and expedite the amalgamation process, the Board of PECAS requested replacement of Board members with members from the Highland Shores CA Board.  The re-established Board had representation from the previous Prince Edward Board.  On November 20, 2012 the make-up of the newly constituted PECAS Board was announced.  PECAS also announced that Bill Sweet, Local Director was departing the Society and that Mark Kartusch, Executive Director of Highland Shores Children's Aid would be assuming responsibility as Executive Director for PECAS.

On April 1, 2013 Highland Shores Children's Aid and the Children's Aid Society of the County of Prince Edward legally amalgamated.