Recognized as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2016)
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Nov 8, 2015)
Here are some of the reasons why Children's Aid Society of Toronto, The was selected as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2016) and Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2016):
- Children's Aid Society of Toronto ensures that employees can recharge with four weeks of starting vacation allowance (and considers previous work experience when setting vacation time for new employees), and lets employees take up to 10 paid personal days off, with the option to carry forward up to 4 days year-over-year for a total of up to 14 paid personal days
- Children's Aid Society of Toronto truly does "walk-the-walk" in providing generous maternity and parental leave top-up payments to new mothers and fathers, including adoptive parents, for up to 34 weeks -- and offers the option to extend their leave into an unpaid leave of absence
Protecting kids and strengthening families at CAS Toronto
Making a difference in the life of a child - that's the compelling opportunity of a career in child welfare with The Children's Aid Society of Toronto. The agency's mission, in keeping with Ontario's Child and Family Services Act, is to protect vulnerable children from abuse and neglect by ensuring they're in a safe environment.
The CAS Toronto is the largest public child welfare agency in North America to be run as a non-profit by a volunteer board of directors. It receives about 100 calls a day, serves over 25,000 children a year and employs 753 full-time staff.
"The most satisfying aspect for staff is helping a vulnerable child and working with families to keep them united," says CEO David Rivard. "Only about 1,600 children a year have to be separated from their families. When a youth leaves our care at age 21, often the CAS case worker has become their friend and will stay in touch with them."
The agency continues to hire as its child protection workers applicants who have either a Masters of Social Work (MSW) or a Bachelors of Social Work (BSW). But it is also recognizes educational equivalency and relevant work experience of candidates who were trained abroad and are new to Canada.
CAS Toronto is increasingly emphasizing diversity among its hires and promotions. It has been doing outreach to racialized and other communities. "We've been working with a consultant during the past year to look at the issue of inclusion and equity within the work environment," says Rivard. "Organizations need to reflect more the communities they're dealing with."
The front-line staff at CAS Toronto already reflect the diversity of the city, but at higher levels, racialized individuals in leadership posts are not as numerous. "So we're instituting numerical goals for these positions," says Rivard. "And when interviewing candidates, we'll try to have at least one of the two or three panelists be a racialized individual."
Nancy Ansong-Danquah, Manager of Training and Development, oversees the training available to all the agency's staff. "One of the great things about this agency," she says, "is that it provides opportunities to learn new skills, move around within the organization and challenge yourself in increasingly responsible positions."
Her own career has certainly followed that path. An MSW, she began at CAS Toronto as an intake worker, moved into children's service worker and family service worker positions, and then advanced into managerial positions.
"It's a challenging field to work in," says Ansong-Danquah, "but the satisfaction is high - not only in terms of client contact and case work but in collaborating with your fellow child welfare workers. In a hospital, you'd potentially be the only social worker in a particular unit, whereas here you have the peer support of your team. You're able to debrief with your colleagues on a difficult case at the end of the day."
CAS Toronto offers good pay and benefits. "Our salaries are the highest within our sector," says Rivard. The agency ensures that employees can recharge with four weeks of paid starting vacation, and lets them take 10 paid personal days off, with the option to carry forward up to four days to the following year.
The agency lives up to its ideals about strengthening families by providing maternity and parental leave top-up payments to its new mothers and fathers. They have the option to extend their leave into an unpaid leave of absence. So it may not be surprising that staff turnover is less than five per cent annually.
Recognized as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2016)
By Kristina Leung and Richard Yerema, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Feb 23, 2016)
Here are some of the reasons why Children's Aid Society of Toronto, The was selected as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2016):
- In addition to a diversity and inclusion committee, the Children's Aid Society of Toronto maintains a bridging diversity committee, comprised of employees and community partners who provide leadership, consultation and recommendations to promote, guide and support anti-oppression, anti-racism and diversity initiatives
- Children's Aid Society of Toronto established Out and Proud Affirmation Guidelines in support of equity for gender and sexual diversity and has maintained the Out and Proud program for over 17 years to ensure its services are open, inclusive, safe and positive for the LGBT community as well as its employees
- Children's Aid Society of Toronto ensures that vacancies are accessible to job-seekers from all walks of life and shares employment opportunities with a number of community partners, including Nationtalk.ca, Equitek, JOIN, Spinal Cord Injury Ontario and the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, to name a few -- and uses World Education Services to assess the qualifications of internationally educated professionals
CAS Toronto casts its hiring net more widely
Claudia Lynch felt both proud and humble. The Jamaican-born child protection worker had been with the Children's Aid Society of Toronto for 14 years when, in October 2015, she became a Manager of the Intake Branch, supervising seven front-line investigative workers for the south quadrant of Toronto,
"I was proud of the response of my colleagues in middle and upper management when I applied for the position," says Lynch. "I had no idea my reputation had preceded me in the way that it did." What was humbling, however, was coincidentally receiving a phone call from a former client who thanked Lynch for making a positive difference in her family's lives.
CAS Toronto is the largest public child welfare agency in North America run as a non-profit by a volunteer board. It receives about 120 calls a day, serves over 25,000 vulnerable children a year and employs 753 full-time staff. Increasingly, those employees - like Lynch - are from visible and other minorities.
"We think it's important for our staff to reflect the diversity of Toronto as well as of the clients we're working with," says Laurie Hewson, Chief Human Resources Officer. "We can provide better services to our clients if we reflect them, because we will have a better understanding of their needs."
Of the agency's workforce, 33 per cent are racialized persons, 8 per cent are LGBTQ individuals, 6.5% are persons with disabilities and 1.8 per cent are Aboriginals. Women constitute 83 per cent of employees. Among managers, 24 per cent are racialized persons, 10 per cent are LGBTQ individuals, 7 per cent are persons with disabilities, and 2 per cent are Aboriginals. Eighty per cent of managers are women.
But CAS Toronto is not complacent. In 2014 it started working with a consultant to make its hiring efforts more strategic. "We now are conducting more outreach recruitment and opening more management vacancies to external candidates," says Hewson.
Certainly, the agency is spreading its hiring net more widely. CAS Toronto partners with PRIDE at Work and other groups that are potential recruitment pools for diverse staff. It lists job openings on their websites and emphasizes its interest in hiring diverse candidates.
The agency continues to hire applicants with either a Master of Social Work or, like Lynch, a Bachelor of Social Work degree as child protection workers. But it also recognizes educational equivalency and relevant work experience of candidates who trained abroad and are new to Canada.
The organization has set numerical goals for groups which it considers under-represented in its management ranks or at the senior executive level. When interviewing candidates for hire or promotion, it tries to have at least one of the two or three panellists from a racialized or other minority.
The workplace culture is a model of inclusiveness. All staff and supervisors receive two days of "anti-oppression" training. "We all come with our own values and biases," says Lynch. "You learn to be aware of them and keep them in check so that you're not further marginalizing groups."
A Bridging Diversity Committee, which includes a representative from every branch of the agency, is intended to increase awareness of diversity and serve as a sounding board for new initiatives.
A Black Education Awareness Committee, comprising both Black staff and "allies," plans programs for Black youth in foster care. These include Soul Journeys - educational and cultural awareness trips to destinations with important Black histories such as Africville in Halifax, Chatham, Ont., Washington, D.C. and Selma, Alabama.
CAS Toronto has a calendar full of diversity events. Every June, it holds a PRIDE BBQ, complete with awards to LGBTQ individuals who have raised awareness or have battled bullying. There is also an annual Black History Month, as well as celebrations of Kwanzaa, Diwali and Chinese New Year.
"What has always impressed me," says Lynch, "is the number of celebrations, not just for members of these groups but for others, too, to join in."