Recognized as one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Dec 7, 2017)
Here are some of the reasons why Children's Aid Society of Toronto was selected as one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2018):
- Children's Aid Society of Toronto helps employees balance work and their personal lives with up to 4 weeks of starting vacation allowance as well as up to 10 paid personal days off, which can be scheduled throughout the year
- Children's Aid Society of Toronto helps employees plan securely for the future with contributions to a defined benefit pension plan and retirement planning assistance -- and offers phased-in work options for those nearing retirement
- As part of the Children's Aid Society of Toronto's health benefits plan, the organization offers a health spending account of up to $1,000 per year, allowing employees to top up coverage according to their personal needs
CAS front-line workers receive top-notch peer support
When Kanjana Brodie discusses what she like about her job at the Children's Aid Society of Toronto, team dynamics tops the list. Support from peers and supervisors is essential given the nature of her work.
Brodie is a Family Service Worker and routinely deals with neglected or abused youngsters and parents with complex needs. She meets families face to face in their homes and usually on her own. But she is part of a team of nine social workers and can always turn to them for advice and support.
"Everyone on my team knows my challenging files and they help me," says Brodie. "We have really critical conversations about the work we do and learn from each other how we can be less oppressive in our practice. I definitely feel that support and that's something I really value."
Front-line workers are challenged daily in their efforts to support families and create safety for their children, and the CAS goes the extra mile to support them. "The work is important so we treat our employees as highly skilled and respected professionals," says Marnie Lynn, the society's Chief Human Resources Officer. "We provide great compensation packages and we have one supervisor for every eight front-line workers. There's always someone to consult or lean on."
Newly hired social workers are partnered with a more seasoned worker who serves as a mentor. The society also maintains a formal peer support network which front-line workers can turn to when necessary.
"We have a mandatory referral from a supervisor if they feel a worker has been through a particularly stressful situation or a call didn't go as expected," says Lynn. "Members of the peer network are trained to provide emotional support."
The society has formal succession planning and leadership development programs, both of which ensure that there are capable replacements available when there are retirements, departures or promotions. Succession planning involves such things as giving employees stretch assignments or allowing them to chair committees or lunch and learn sessions.
Or in Brodie's case taking on a master of social work (MSW) student who was doing a school placement. "My supervisor says she can see me taking on a supervisory role in the future," says Brodie. "That isn't in the realm of possibility right now, but having that seed planted by my supervisor instills a lot of confidence in me."
There are two streams of leadership training, one of which is offered internally through the society's Child Welfare Institute. The society also partners with an Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies program involving York University's Schulich School of Business.
Front-line workers typically have a case load of 14 to 18 families and they enjoy a great deal of latitude in determining what kind of therapies or interventions are necessary in each case. As well, they can keep their own hours. "Sometimes they have to work late to meet the needs of their clients," says Lynn. "So it's up to the individual when they start and end their day and whether they work from home or come to the office."
The agency is generous when it comes to vacation -- four weeks to start -- and personal leave days. Brodie says she was allowed to take four weeks after one particularly challenging year and she has taken personal days, no questions asked.
"My mom was on a work trip to Collingwood and broke her hip," Brodie says. "I messaged my supervisor and she said 'Go. Don't worry. We know what needs to be covered."
Recognized as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers
By Kristina Leung and Richard Yerema, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Mar 1, 2018)
Here are some of the reasons why Children's Aid Society of Toronto was selected as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2018):
- Children's Aid Society of Toronto created a number of committees to address various topics including diversity and inclusion, anti-oppression and anti-racism, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and black education and awareness
- As part of the organization's inclusive recruitment practices, Children's Aid Society of Toronto provides hidden bias training for employees and uses World Education Services to assess immigrants' qualifications -- the organization also shares vacancies with a number of community organizations including Spinal Cord Injury Ontario, Pride at Work Canada, and Nationaltalk.ca
- Children's Aid Society of Toronto has maintained the Out and Proud program for over 18 years to ensure its services are open, inclusive, safe and positive for the LGBT community as well as its employees, and also established Out and Proud Affirmation Guidelines
CAS embraces diversity with training and listening
Nicole Bonnie, Director of Diversity, Anti-Oppression and Community Development with the Toronto Children's Aid Society, puts it this way: "As an organization dedicated to child welfare, we have a responsibility to ensure that injustice and inequity do not get reproduced in the work we do."
That means embracing diversity, equity and inclusion, and, to that end, CAS has developed a comprehensive anti-oppression and anti-racism framework that applies to everyone -- from the board of directors to frontline workers. "The framework recognizes how certain groups, whether it's the poor or the LGBTQ, Indigenous and racialized communities, get marginalized from opportunities and resources," says Bonnie. "Our role is to recognize this marginalization, acknowledge it and correct it."
All new employees are required to participate in two days of anti-oppression training, which teaches new recruits about racism, sexism, classism, transphobia and homophobia, and the organization has recently added an Indigenous component. The training includes activity-based learning, viewing videos and assessing case scenarios as well as small- and large-group workshops.
"We all have biases, but we need to acknowledge them in order to become better workers," says Bianca Stewart, a Senior Child Welfare Worker and Trainer. "I train new workers and it helps them understand the journey we're on around diversity, anti-oppression and anti-racism."
The Organization's 'Out and Proud' program offers staff training around issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. "We have to recognize the breadth and depth of diversity in the families and youth we support," Stewart adds.
However, communication is not a one-way street at CAS. The organization is committed to listening to employees, especially around issues of race, culture and representation. "Black-identified staff work toward building awareness and consciousness within the organization so that we can support the black community," says Bonnie. "They also help build awareness around their cultural identity."
"Where we have under-representation, groups have been set up to address the issue," she adds. "We listen to our staff so we understand the strengths of the organization as well as the gaps around how we are addressing the needs of multiple individuals."
CAS also takes advantage of opportunities to celebrate diversity within the organization and within the communities it serves. The organization holds a series of events in February to celebrate Black History Month. Last year, the black-owned radio station G98.7, which reaches over one million listeners, broadcast live during an evening that featured a dinner, a keynote address, drumming and dancing.
"The night was designed to inspire and recognize the contribution of the African-Canadian community," says Bonnie. "We had a huge turnout and the station was so impressed that we did such a large event."
Throughout the year, CAS's Black Education Association Committee meets monthly and organizes activities for children in care. "Once a year we take a group of black children and youth away for a week," says Stewart. "Last year there was a trip to Jamaica. We said, 'Let's look at the history and culture of the Jamaican people'."
CAS also organizes a number of events each June to support Pride month, culminating in a barbecue for LGBTQ employees, their families and their parents. "It's a great event," says Stewart. "The performances and program are designed by the LGBTQ staff and allies like myself. It's a night of artistic expression and, along with staff, is open to youth in care and post-care."