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                   Strategic Plan

About Us | Our History

The 1930's The Beginnings
As the Great Depression finished its course, a group of volunteer women in Cornwall, known as the Federated Charity (an interdenominational church group) had been providing clothing and emergency food to those in need. These women recognized that material assistance was not enough, by itself, to solve the variety of social problems in their town. In 1935, this group wanted to establish some form of counseling for the families experiencing more severe social problems. They pressured the Cornwall town Council, to take action, and Council (under the inspired dedication of Miss Mary Mack) authorized a survey of social conditions in Cornwall, which was undertaken by the Canadian Welfare Council.

As a result of this information, a family service agency, known as the Social Service Council, opened its doors in Cornwall in May 1938. The first Director, Miss Nita Green, operated from one small room: a part-time receptionist/typist, Miss Margaret Conliffe, was hired in October that year: and history of service to the community was born.

The first goal of the new social agency was to coordinate the provision of clothing and emergency food to the townsfolk, in such a way as to prevent over lapping of donations and abuse to scarce resources. One aspect of this effort was an interesting policy: that only the breadwinner of the family could request assistance. (Provincial guidelines in 1938 prevented municipalities like Cornwall from providing a minimum standard of living.)

The agency served the town of Cornwall only, which was "one mile square" (population – 12,507): families from the surrounding area and villages often gave wrong addresses to establish eligibility for service within the town.

With the active support of the Kinsmen Club and many volunteers, the Social Service Council opened a clothing workshop, with a declared aim of teaching recipients to help themselves, to maintain independence and to help people learn to improve their home-making, and parenting skills. The workshop also provided a social and learning environment for youngsters, and even operated a summer camp for girls in the area.

Thus, the tradition of a "self-help" focus in the Cornwall agency was set from the very beginning.

The 1940's – Wartime
As World War II swept over the Canadian people, the town of Cornwall experienced additional social upheaval. Some textile mills in town began using children as workers to replace enlisted workers, as the income was needed to keep body and soul (and families) together. the Social Service Council staff and volunteers spearheaded a successful effort to persuade local school boards to hire full-time attendance officers to help keep children in school as long as possible: part of this effort was combat a very high rate of illiteracy among the area's population.

Similarly, local housing conditions and standards were deplorable in the war years. Families of 9 and 10 persons were found living in two room shacks. Under the leadership of the Council, a coalition of clergy, labour, industry and others, raised the need and the impetus for better housing. Although it took several years, this effort finally paid off when a contract was signed for 125 homes for families in lower income brackets.

Clothing and food distribution remained central to the Council's operation during the forties. Miss Green resigned in 1941 and by 1945; the Board had appointed Miss Conliffe as executive head of the agency. She and her volunteers continued to draw the public's attention to gaps in service, but there was precious little time or skill available for counseling and/ or "social planning" as we know it today.

Coalitions and partnerships to achieve community goals have long been a hallmark of the Family Counselling Centre's working style in the Cornwall area.

The 1950's – The Seaway
The construction of the Saint Lawrence Seaway in the 1950's was the dominant factor in the life of Cornwall and area. Some 6,500 workers and countless pieces of equipment were involved in carving the land to accommodate the shipping channel that would allow large freighters to move from the Great Lakes to ports of the world. The social and environmental changes for residents of the Cornwall area were huge.

Workers arrived expecting jobs, but could find little housing. A young and energetic single workforce created new social needs and problems. The temptation to leave school and get a well-paying job was irresistible for many. New opportunities and new money brought their own problems. The Family Welfare Bureau, as it began to call itself, moved even further away from providing tangible material aid and more preventative, counseling-focused forms of service, and began looking at issues like alcoholism and money management for and among people of all social classes, not just the underprivileged. Housing, education and parenting skills remained key work in the '50s for the Agency: "mixed marriages", absent parents and service boundaries became the newer issues in the community and in service needs.

The new wealth led to further suburban development and the expansion and construction of new workplaces, like the downtown Saint Lawrence Seaway Authority's headquarters. Most of this construction took place outside the old "one mile square" of Cornwall itself, in the surrounding townships. The opening of the Seaway on July 1, 1959, also saw the "annexation" of those townships into the City of Cornwall: likewise, many little local school boards became consolidated into two larger boards.

So, Cornwall and its people prepared for the new prosperity that the Seaway and its electric power were to bring to the area. Service needs similarly expanded, and the Family Service Bureau grew in tune with the community. Miss Margaret Conliffe's role changed to Executive Director, and she continued to oversee the Bureau's growth until her resignation in 1985, culminating a lifetime of service to the Bureau and the community for forty-seven (47) years.

The 1960's – "Disappointment and Unemployment"
The heady days of the 50s produced a belief that the new wealth would last forever, triggered by the cheap electricity that would bring endless industry to the area. People refused to believe the prosperity would end, and therefore over committed their resources and their lives.

Unemployment soon became the major social and economic issues for the area: and the Family Service Bureau deployed its energies to dealing with the social impact of indebtedness, family breakup, a replay of the material assistance of the earlier decades, and ongoing support for Cornwall's efforts to attract employers to locate in the area.

Co-ordination of service became a focal point, as the poor economic conditions forced a new clientele upon local services. New programs, such as addiction counseling, bankruptcy services, job re-training and vocational assessment, became current: the Family Service Bureau encouraged and operated a number of these embryonic service forms.

In December 1967, the agency was incorporated as a non-profit charity without share capital, under the name of the Family Service Bureau. High quality counseling was a service feature, with Vivian Burson and other skilled counsellors joining the staff.

Throughout this decade, the agency was involved in several attempts to create a Social Planning Council for the Cornwall area, which did not work: nevertheless, the co-operative nature of this effort laid the basis for later co-ordination of the service structure in the newly expanded territory.

The 1970's – "Partnerships in Action"
In the seventies, the Family Service Bureau took advantage of various government social policies directed towards the re-privatization of social services. In particular, the agency negotiated "purchase of service agreements" with the counties surrounding the city, to recover the costs incurred in servicing residents in those areas. A similar agreement was worked out the City of Cornwall, to provide re-imbursement for services delivered to city residents on welfare. In 1975, the agency sponsored and promoted the Credit Counselling Program, with its emphasis on adult education and independent management of family resources. Co-operation with the financial community and the credit-granting institutions was sought and obtained.

The agency has a long tradition of relying on "local dollars", rather than provincial funding, to operate and implement its programs. United Way dollars were (and still are) the main source of support, and this fact underlines the extent to which the agency enjoys the confidence and trust of the citizens it serves.

Counselling caseloads increased dramatically throughout the 70s, and the "material assistance" work was transferred to other caregivers in the community. The agency became known for its skilled counseling in social and financial issues, and changed its name to the Family Counselling Centre to reflect this reality.

The 1980's – "Contracts and Services"
In July 1980, the agency entered into an agreement with the Ministry of Community and Social Services to provide Family Relief to parents and guardians of developmentally handicapped individuals. A staff of eight was hired to offer "in-home" relief to parents and to give them free time for themselves and other family members. In 1982, this service was transferred to new agency, S.D. & G. Developmental Services, which has been able to expand the range of services available to such clients and their families.

New service needs continued to emerge, and in 1986, the agency received funding from the Ministry to provide counseling services for abused women and their children. In subsequent years, this service, too, was re-informed with group counseling through partnerships arranged with a number of local women's' shelters. The agency continues to advocate on behalf of all victims of violence.

These are two examples of the Family Counselling Centre's "non-proprietary" interest in local service. Stimulating the local community to respond to real needs is a continuing feature of the agency's life, and its track record in these efforts is impressive.
In the mid-eighties, several staff members received certification and formed a CUPE local. Negotiations have always been amicable.

Towards the end of the 1980s, the agency continued to develop needed services; in 1989, the Employee Assistance Program was set up, with several local employers signing agreement for service provision from the staff of the Family Counselling Centre. This evaluation was consistent with the agency's reliance on local dollars for local needs.

Mr. Raymond Houde, who had served as Credit Counsellor within the agency since 1977, became Executive Director, to replace Miss Conliffe, in 1985.

The 1990's – "Recession and Innovation"
As the Ontario "recession" of the early nineties deepened, the agency's funding was restricted by the inability of the local community to support its own services: and was severely hurt when the Ministry, through its own restructuring, eliminated funding for the Credit Counselling and purchase-of-service agreements with the municipalities. As service needs increased, the ability of the Family Counselling Centre to provide those services was drastically reduced. Waiting list grew.

The agency was able to arrange for a (heavily mortgaged) purchase of it own building, however, and its re-location in 1992 has proven to be a real service strength for the community at large.

Contractual arrangements continue into the 90s, and a very successful program was developed with a local Catholic School Board, involving service to children under a purchase of service agreement. The agency was instrumental in setting up a "Single Point Access" service for the families of the community, which is administered through the Family Counselling Centre. Another contract has been signed with the Community Care Access Centre, for direct service to clients. The Board of Directors of the agency has been extensively involved in the development of these contracts, in offering advice and participating in various task forces and community forums: there is recognition that the community as a whole has a vested interest in protecting, shaping and enhancing its own resources.

Innovation continues. In 1995, the staff (concerned about the long waiting lists at its own, and other agencies) participated in a new service approach, the Drop-In Clinic. The idea was tested with clients on the waiting list, and was very successful. In 1996, with the Board's approval, this new service was offered to the community, with impressive results: it provides immediate access to the Agency's services on a first-come, first-served basis (no appointments necessary). Expansion of this service is now underway.

In 1996 and 1997, the Credit Counselling staff and the Executive Director completed a training program on Insolvency Counselling, which permits the agency to generate new funds from bankruptcy work, as required by the new federal legislation.

The 2000's The Era of Transformation
In the new millennium, the Family Counselling Centre continues to offer leadership in several planning initiatives in spite of the government policies of restraint and challenging agencies to become more creative in their ways of doing business. This was the era of community transformation and partnerships to find ways in dealing with high service demands and few new resources.

In 1998, the Family Counselling Centre and Centre York Centre (Supervised Access) established a partnership for the administration of the day to day operation of the Centre. This was followed in 1999 with the sponsorship of the Community Integration Services program in Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry whom entered into an agreement with the Ministry of Community and Social Services to combine the three sites of Adult Protective Services Worker in the counties into one agency. Negotiation began with the three existing sponsors to transfer each program to the Family Counselling Centre while maintaining a seamless service to the clients. All of a sudden the agency grew by an additional seven employees with the addition of what is now known as Community Integration Services.

With the support of the Board of Directors a new administrative structure was created at the agency. The creation of a new position of assistant to the Executive Director took place. The Management Team was then comprised of the Clinical Supervisor, the Executive Assistant, the Executive Director and the Supervisor of the Community Integration Services.

In 1999-2000 fiscal year the Ministry of Community and Social Services approached the Family Counselling Centre and introduced a new program for children who witness violence. This was a new initiative to be offered with other partner agencies such as the shelters and the francophone Family Violence Program at L'Équipe psycho-sociale. The Family Counselling Centre was responsible for the management and the accountability for the delivery of the group model offered for children and their mothers who experience a violent situation in the home. A Steering Committee was formed with new partners and the first Creative Coping for Kids (C.C.K.) group was offered in early 2000.

At the time, the agency building (330 Montreal Road) no longer met our needs due to the increase in staff and programs. The Board of Directors immediately began a search for a new location. In 2003, the Family Counselling Centre found a new location and entered into a lease agreement with Dr. Jean Dubuc for rental space at 26 Montreal Road, Cornwall. The Board of Directors of Centre York Centre also approved a move to the same location in order to facilitate the management of their program with senior staff of the Family Counselling Centre. This new location provided the opportunity to combine all the programs and services under the same roof.

Although the Family Counselling Centre saw some considerable growth in services in early 2000, it also faced some challenges with the Ministry of Community and Social Services and their new direction included the merger of all the children's mental health services with the local community hospital. This meant that the Single Point Access program was being transferred to a new sponsor and the Family Counselling Centre lost two employees in the process. The Board of Directors fought really hard to keep Single Point Access out of the process but to no avail the decision was clearly made at the regional office of the Ministry.

In 2003, the Family Counselling Centre along with a community group of service providers was successful with their bid to receive funding from the Ministry of the Attorney General for the delivery of the Partner Assault Response program. This new service is part of the Ontario Victim Services Secretariat and compliments the Violence Against Women program offered by the agency. This service is offered to individuals that abuse their partner and for a first time offence and pleads guilty to the charges. The agency established a new partnership with the Court, Crown Attorney and the VWAP services in the community.

In 2005 Domtar announced they were closing the mill in Cornwall in early 2006. The pulp and paper industry has been part of the community for over 100 years and provided significant wages for many families. The impact of losing a major industry is going to be felt for many years to come. It is expected other smaller employers will be affected especially those being dependent on Domtar. The unemployment will effect families and add to their stress and most likely will be seeking services from our agency.

Immediately following the announcement the Chairperson and the Executive Director met with the local MPP in order to request some financial assistance in dealing with the anticipated increase of referrals to the agency. Unfortunately, being in time of government restraint there was no additional monies available. The agency would be left to address this new challenge on its own.

Also in 2005, this agency undertook a strategic planning process and held a series of focus groups with our partner agencies to determine the impact of our services in the community and how we could improve services to the clients. Feedback was received from clients, staff and Board Members as well and resulted in a five year plan (2005-2010) to help structure the future of the Family Counselling Centre.

As we move ahead in the new millennium the Family Counselling Centre continues to offer leadership in several community planning initiatives. After all, it is part of our history.

During the fiscal year 2005-2006, the agency entered into an agreement with the Ministry of the Attorney General to act as a sponsor for the establishment of a new agency with programs for victims of crisis. This new agency was to be named the Victim Crisis Assistance and Referral Service of Stormont, Dundas, Glengarry and Akwesasne. A committee was created with community agencies for a volunteer Board of Directors. In December 2005, the first Executive Director was hired to lead the process for the new agency. The sponsorship lasted two years and by March 31, 2009 VCARS was a stand alone agency offering valuable services to the victims of crimes in our community.

At the same time, the Board of Directors and all employees was currently engaged in an on-going process for a possible merger with the local Children's Aid Society of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry. This opportunity could have strengthened the agency in the community and who knows possibly change its name to reflect a new enterprise that offers services to children and their families and perhaps even see a change in a corporate name such as Child and Family Services of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry.

In 2007, the Children's Aid Society of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry informed the agency they were terminating the process of a merger because they felt the time was not right for the organization. However, it was agreed that both agencies would continue to work in partnership together on common projects to help the mutual clients.

In November 2007, the agency held a Board and Staff Retreat to review and refresh the five year Strategic Plan. Board By-Laws and Policies were reviewed and updated to reflect the current way of doing business. In the early part of 2008, staff had a Retreat to focus on some of the goals established in the Plan and to look at ways the staff can proceed with changes that would provide easier access to the services of the agency as well to improve the efficiency of the operational issues.

In January 2008 the Ministry of the Attorney General approached the agency regarding the possibility of sponsoring the development of another new VCARS agency in Prescott-Russell. The agency was to be named Victim Crisis Assistance and Referral Services of Prescott-Russell. During the fiscal year 2008-2009 the agency assisted in developing the new VCARS program by recruiting a new Board of Directors and hired the Executive Director. By March 31, 2009 the new agency in Prescott-Russell was fully operational with the appropriate staff and full complement of the Board of Directors. This also meant the termination of the sponsorship with the agency.

In the Fall of 2008 an application to the Trillium Foundation was submitted to help the agency with the introduction of a new database for all agency programs as well as the rebranding of the agency. The request was approximately $100,000 and the Trillium Foundation approved an mount of $50,000. The Board of Directors decided to use part of their reserve to complement the balance of the funds as they felt this was a worthwhile project.

In January 2009 the process began with the implementation for a new database and establishing a relationship with Coyote Software Corp., a company that specialized in the development of software for Family Service agencies in Ontario.

By March 2009 the agency purchased new computer equipment to meet the needs of the implementation of the software for the new database. During the months to follow the staff began a series of training sessions regarding the new software and its capabilities.

As a follow-up to our strategic planning sessions, the agency undertook a process of reviewing the name of the agency to better reflect the types of programs and services offered to the community. With the assistance of staff and Board Members, the proposed new name of the corporation was selected "Counselling and Support Services of Stormont, Dundas & Glengarry". This was a significant step in our rebranding process since the last name change of the corporation was done in 1967.

By January 2010 the agency received its revised Letters Patent with the new name of the corporation. The agency purchased new revised pamphlets and letterhead, created a new website and sent a communiqué to the community agencies announcing the new name.

In April 2009 the agency received a grant from the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services for an amount of $133,000. This was a joint application with the CornwallCommunity Police Service and the purpose of the project is to complete follow-up with the victims of crimes and the perpetrators that are about to be released in the community once their sentence have been completed. This project is ending July 31, 2010. Currently we have one staff that is working three days per week at the Police Headquarters.

In February 2009 the Ministry of the Attorney General made a presentation to the Board of Directors about a possible project in regards to the follow-up to the Cornwall Public Inquiry. The goal of the project is to assist victims that had been receiving counselling services through the Cornwall Public Inquiry and assist them in a transition process by referring them to community services. An amount of $75,000 was provided to the agency for a six (6) month period terminating on July 31, 2010.

In the year ahead the agency will continue to work in partnership with other service providers in meeting demands for the most vulnerable individuals and families in our community. Our history has shown that we can play an important role in the social service sector but also recognize that we cannot do this on our own. Working collaboratively with other organizations is our strength and we will continue to look at opportunities to establish partnerships for the benefits of consumers.