A treasure chest of toys awaits children at the Safe Centre of Peel. Photo courtesy of Catholic Family Services of Peel Dufferin

Social service demands are consistently growing

  • May 10, 2013

TORONTO - At Catholic Family Services of Durham, clients often tell staff they feel helped, understood and safe, said executive director Elizabeth Pierce.

“They feel like they are able to come to us, get what they need from us and then move forward in their lives,” said Pierce.

This agency of Catholic Charities provides individual, family, couple and group counselling. It also offers group sessions by way of skills-based educational workshops for parents and couples.

“The fact that we have a three-to five-month wait list means the need is great in this community and if it weren’t for Catholic Charities bringing us to this region, (Durham Region) would be that much more under-serviced than it already is,” said Pierce.

The agency was founded in 1981 from the basement of St. Gertrude parish in Oshawa, Ont., and its work is still infused with Catholic social teaching, said Pierce.

“We have a special mission to stand in solidarity with those experiencing difficulties.”

She said about half the clients are adult and child victims of domestic violence.

At Catholic Family Services of Peel Dufferin, there is a strong focus on accessibility.

“We have our services available in 12 languages,” said executive director Mark Creedon.

Fees are based on a “sliding scale,” which takes into account the number of people in a family and overall household revenue. So where a wealthy couple might be charged $100 an hour for counselling, a poorer couple might pay $2 an hour for the same service, said Creedon.

Along with providing counselling and services in the area of trauma, the agency also offers general programs that anyone can use, such as dealing with anxiety and depression, he said. “This is now the number one reason for people missing work so these are extremely common things.”

Throughout his 20 years at the helm, Creedon said the greatest issue has been that the demand for services is consistently greater than the number of people available to provide them. Over 2011-12, the agency served 26,000 people.

To keep pace with the high volume, the agency has had to re-invent itself every so often. Most recently, it started offering walk-in clinics for counselling on specific days to meet the demand,.

Similar support services for individuals and families are offered at Catholic Family Services of Toronto and Simcoe County. Catholic Community Services of York Region is another agency that offers counselling and group workshops, as well as immigrant settlement services. The needs of immigrants and refugees in Toronto and Peel are also served by Catholic Crosscultural Services, also an agency of Catholic Charities, which assists with employment, housing and support for refugee sponsorship.

In the area of family planning, services that are grounded in Catholic teachings are provided by the Natural Family Planning Association, which teaches couples the Billings Ovulation Method, and by FertilityCare Toronto (formerly the Marguerite Buorgeoys Family Centre), which offers a range of services to meet the fertility and health needs of women.

(Santilli is a freelance writer in Toronto.)