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 the Hastings Children’s Aid Society

The Children’s Aid Society in Hastings County had its earliest beginning in November of 1894 in the Belleville City Hall Council Chambers, when child advocate and social reformer, J. J. Kelso, addressed a group of prominent Belleville citizens.

Thomas Ritchie, J.J.B. Flint, Robert Mathison, Rev. Robert Wallace, P.J.M. Anderson, Rev. E. N. Baker and Curtis Bogart were among those present to hear Mr. Kelso’s address advocating the formation of a Society.

With the commitment of this group of citizens, and Mr. Kelso’s support, encouragement and advice, a branch of the Children’s Aid Society was formed in 1895 under the supervision of the Humane Society, which was the norm of the day.

Although legally organized, the Society languished and there’s little evidence of much activity in the area of child welfare during the next ten years.

In early 1907, a public meeting led to the founding of the Children’s Aid Society for Belleville and the County of Hasting, with the Society officially incorporated on June 12, 1907.  The Society’s first employee, Albert Checker, was hired as Agent and Chas. H. Emerson was elected the first
Chairman of the Board.

In 1909, the City of Belleville donated the former Isolation Hospital on Moira Street West to the Society to be used as a shelter. It opened July 1st of that year with many dignitaries in attendance including Mackenzie Bowell, J. J. Kelso, Lieutenant Governor J.M. Gibson and J. W. Johnson, M.P.P.

On January 4, 1917 the Shelter moved to 243 Dundas Street East in Belleville.  On August 30, 1933 the Society was officially incorporated. By the mid-30s, with the move from institutional to foster care, more children were being placed with families by the Society and the Shelter was no longer required.  It closed in 1938 and the staff re-located to offices at 250½ Front Street in Belleville.

Acts were passed in the field of child welfare in 1921, 1954, 1965 and 1984 and various trends emerged with each of these legislative developments. There was a shift from a volunteer to a professional service system and from residential and protection oriented services to foster care and prevention
oriented services.

In 1948, the office space was deemed too small, so Mr. Charles Hyde, President of the Board, with the consent of the Executive Committee, purchased a brick building on the southwest corner of West Moira and Everett Streets.

1958 the Society opened its own group home at 73 Highland Avenue. The home served as a receiving center for several youngsters as well as a treatment group home for six to eight others.

In 1968 the Society moved to 311 Front Street in Belleville, leasing the second and third floors of the property for a period of five years for the sum of $20,000.00 per year.

In May 1981, R. Larry MacDonald was hired as Executive Director, after a second term as Acting Director.  He retired in July of 1999
after 26 years of service.

In 1985 construction started on a new headquarters for the Society at 363 Dundas Street West. Prominent provincial and local dignitaries participated in the ceremonial sod turning.  On April 14, 1987 the office was officially opened completing a long process to provide adequate and suitable office space for staff. The Honorable John Sweeney, Minister of Community and Social Services, officially opened the new building.

On October 26, 1989 the first agreement was signed between the Society and the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte defining the division of responsibility for family and children’s services with regards to the Tyendinaga Mohawk Nation.

In October of the next year, the Society opened a 10 bed co-ed residential treatment home at 371 Dundas Street West, Belleville next door to its head office at 363 Dundas Street West.  That same month, a new office was opened in North Hastings at 16 Billa Street in Bancroft.

On May 28, 1991 the Society’s fundraising arm, the Quinte Regional Children’s Foundation was incorporated.

In September of 1993 A “Child Abuse Protocol” was signed between the Society, police services in Hastings County and the Crown Attorney.

P. Len Kennedy was hired as Executive Director on February 1, 2000.

On December 12, 2000 the Society celebrated the official opening of its new offices at 469 Dundas Street West in Trenton.

On February 8, 2001 the Society began the year by changing its name from the Children’s Aid Society of the City of Belleville, County of Hastings and the City of Trenton to the Hastings Children's Aid Society.

One of the Society’s biggest accomplishments was the implementation in 2005-06 of the P.R.I.D.E. (Parent Resources for Information, Development & Education) Pre-service Training Program in South and North Hastings. The P.R.I.D.E. model is competency-based and designed to recruit, develop and retain families capable of providing long-term supportive foster and adoptive care for today’s child-in-care population.

Foster parents, volunteers, board members and HCAS staff joined with local, provincial and federal dignitaries and community partners on September 10th, 2009 to celebrate the official opening of the newly redeveloped HCAS headquarters located at 363 Dundas Street West in Belleville.

The Society’s staff grew from a single employee in 1907 to close to 200 employees as of 2012.  The number of children in its care climbed from a few dozen in the early 1900s to close to 600 as of 2012.  However, the focus of the Society has remained the same throughout its history – to protect children and youth from abuse and neglect.

The History of the Northumberland Children’s Aid Society

The idea for the formation of a Children’s Aid Society in Cobourg arose following a meeting held on March 4th, 1885 in the Cobourg Council Chambers by concerned citizens interested in the protection of children.  J.J. Kelso had been invited to the meeting to speak.  Mr. Kelso explained the working of the Children’s Aid Society and the powers given to such a Society when organized under the Act, thereby enabling them to deal legally with neglected children.  A committee for the purposes of establishing a Society was subsequently formed.

In April of 1885, this committee applied for incorporation under Chapter 172 of the Revised Statues of Ontario.  On April 18th of that year, the Children’s Aid Society of Northumberland was founded after His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor approved an Order-in-Council recognizing the
Committee as a Society.

In 1908, a number of interested parties met in the Council chambers in the Town of Port Hope to take preliminary steps to organize a Society there as well.  Mr. John W. Bickle, who had acted as Secretary of the Cobourg branch of the Society gave an account of the work done in the aid of neglected and orphaned children in Cobourg.  In the thirteen years that the Society had been working there, some 25 children had been placed in good homes. 

The two Societies were officially united to form the Children’s Aid Society of the United Counties of Northumberland and Durham in 1915 with the administration being centered in Port Hope.  J.W. Bickle became the first President.

Two years later a children’s shelter located on Bruton Street in Port Hope was purchased.  It was the practice to maintain the wards of the Society in the shelter until they were adopted or foster homes could be found for them.  At times, as many as 25 children would be in the residence.  Later on, the policy of maintaining wards in the shelter was changed as it was found more to their best interest to be placed in foster homes as soon as possible.

Up until 1941, the work of the society was administered from the homes of various inspectors or superintendents.  In 1941, office space was obtained at 12 John Street in Port Hope.

With the work of the Society ever increasing, in 1950, a Committee of the Board of Directors was appointed to study the problem of securing larger quarters for the staff and their efforts resulted in a new, modern building on Walton Street in Port Hope.  This was the first office building ever built in Ontario exclusively for a Children’s Aid Society and it was opened by the Honourable W.A. Goodfellow, the Ontario Minister of Welfare, on May 19th, 1951. 

With changes in the Child Welfare Act and its regulations made in 1966, a new system of financing CASs was established.  According to the act, each Society prepared a budget, submitted a copy to the municipality and the Province.  This budget, when approved, was shared 40% by the municipality and 60% by the province.

In 1974, due to the new Region of Durham being formed, some boundary changes were made, with the Children’s Aid Society of Northumberland and Durham losing part of its western area to the Kawartha-Haliburton CAS.  The last Annual Meeting of the Children’s Aid Society of Northumberland and Durham took place in Port Hope on March 7th, 1974.  In keeping with the boundary changes, the Society changed its name to the Children’s Aid Society of Northumberland.  This name was subsequently changed only a few months later, in July of 1974, to Family and Children’s Services of Northumberland to better reflect the various services the Society was providing.  In addition to its regular child protection work, these services included, family counseling, individual counseling and assistance and counseling for unwed mothers.

In 1975, Local Director, Arthur B. Finnie retired after thirty-one years of service and his Assistant Director, Douglas A. Nutter, who began working with the Society in 1954, was appointed to the position.

Also in that year, the Society sold its receiving home, Hillcrest Lodge.  This facility had been a temporary home for hundreds of children admitted to care who were awaiting foster homes and for some others, a permanent home until they were able to live independently.  Children were being placed directly into foster homes or into group homes if this was warranted.

During the period between 1976 and through the 1980’s, many new programs were begun at the Society and “prevention” became a very important part of the Society’s work.  A Drop-In Centre was developed and staffed by a Social Worker employed by the Society.  The Society sponsored the beginnings of the Northumberland Big Sisters program, a School Liaison Program and an active summer camp program.

After nine years at the helm of the organization, Doug Nutter announced his retirement in 1984 and Greg Dulmage was hired as Executive Director.  Mr. Dulmage moved to Cobourg from Kapuskasing.

By the early 1980’s the Society was out growing its office building.  After three years of extensive planning and fundraising, in June of 1988, the Children’s Aid Society of Northumberland moved to its current home, a new building once again built specifically for a CAS at 1005 Burnham Street in Cobourg.  When it was decided to build on the site on Burnham Street, some research was done into the history of the area.  It was discovered that the building would be situated on the site of the original village of Amherst and so it was decided that the building would be named after the village.

Since that time, numerous community programs have been developed and the Society actively participates, and in some cases supports, the new programs until they are able to function on their own.  These programs include Northumberland Family Respite, Northumberland Family Resource Centre, the Task Force on Family Violence, the Family Violence Treatment Coalition, Children’s Case Co-ordination, the Children’s Services Committee and the Northumberland Emergency Response Program for Youth.

In addition to the above mentioned activities, the Society also established a number of internal resources:  Treatment Foster Care, the School Liaison Program, the Independent Living Program, the Volunteer Program, the Adoption Disclosure Program, the Behaviors Management Program and the Youth Networking Committee.  The Society’s foster parents also actively participate in the Foster Parent Association.

On April 18th, 1995, the Society celebrated its 100th anniversary.

On January 1, 2009, Rosaleen Cutler took over the role of Executive Director.

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.