Family and Children’s Services of Renfrew County building a caring community

By Patricia Leboeuf

Posted on Thursday July 23, 2020


It has been a busy year for Family and Children’s Services of Renfrew County (FCSRC) as they continue their work for the welfare of families.

Over the past few months, they’ve had to adjust how they provide services and support for those who use their programs and resources. But despite the challenges, they have not lagged in their mission.

“The support our community receives from FCSRC is essential to the inclusion and development of so many residents, and it is so appreciated,” said Pembroke Mayor Mike LeMay in a written statement read during their June 18 virtual Annual General Meeting (AGM).

He was confident the agency will manage to rise against the challenges that COVID-19 brings and continue to provide its life-changing services. 

This sentiment was echoed by John Yakabuski, MPP for Renfrew - Nipissing - Pembroke, who also sent in a supportive statement by email.

“The services you provide are crucial to our society,” he said. “In addition, your organization supports some of our most vulnerable people in our community, oftentimes in very difficult parts of their lives.”

The FCSRC is in its third year of implementing its current strategic plan of creating a caring community. This has seen them stop telling their service users what will make things better, but rather support them to build plans and set goals that fit themselves, their lifestyles and their unique families.

“Throughout the year, and across the organization, we continued to look at how we build relationships, work collaboratively and respectfully, and engage humbly in our work with families, our work with each other, and our services overall,” said Kathy Davis,  Executive Director. “These are the foundations of our practice principles - how we work with families, service users, and each other. Additionally, some of our very hard work - this past year, and in the years to come – involves acknowledging and addressing inequities that exist.  Our agency is compelled to closely examine systems, processes, beliefs, and biases to identify where and how we can impact positive change”. 

Doing so is a multipronged approach and the organization has reached out to different partners. 

“Standing alone, we simply couldn’t accomplish our mission, so we want to express our gratitude to community partners and champions of equity and social inclusion, staff, government and the children and youth of Renfrew County who work together towards the accomplishment,” said Mike Noon, Chairman of the Board of Directors.

Over the past year, this has become even more apparent as the organization has shifted and evolved, creating new programs and building on old ones.

Their past achievements include the introduction of the Direct Support Provider program and tightening privacy to its users. Also, in the past year, their Child and Family Support team has expanded the Parent’s Anonymous program to three groups per week offered in Pembroke and Renfrew. The agency is additionally spreading awareness of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) as well as increasing the capacity within the community to support those with confirmed or suspected FASD.

The FCSRC Speech and Language program has also gone through several changes as they amalgamated with First Words Ottawa and Renfrew County for children’s speech services. The organization also partnered with the Bernadette McCann House through the provision of monthly workshops for men, women and youth.

The FCSRC’s Caring Dads program has reached a significant milestone as it enters into its 10th year, and it has seen unprecedented graduation rates of 90 per cent.

With the support of the Renfrew Fire Department, several young people spent the night outdoors on March 6 raising awareness of youth homelessness in the county, while collecting $3,000.

“I remember being so impressed by the perseverance of our group,” said Rachel Merrick, FCSRC’s Arnprior School-Based Worker. 

FCSRC’s has also ramped up promoting their french language services and has introduced Jouons en Francais as well as focusing on reconciliation with indigenous communities. 

The FCSRC has been open about the fact that the agency has harmed the First Nations, and that harm is still occurring through intergenerational trauma. They are working to do better, committing to do better, find solutions together and rooting out systematic racism.

“I know you need to see action and not empty words,” said Director of Service Suzanne Elliott.

This was echoed throughout the AGM with the promise that staff will do better in all aspects. They will build on positive outcomes for their families and promote diversity, inclusivity and equity.

“Our hope is that the work that we are doing helps us have a positive impact on families and on our communities,” said Davis.