Native Child and Family Services of Toronto stands as one of the most significant expressions of urban aboriginality. We are proud to be a leader in the field of Native human services in Canada.
Native Child and Family Services of Toronto (NCFST) was founded in 1986 by concerned members of Toronto’s Native community. The founders were concerned about the high number of children in the care of Children’s Aid Societies and by the issues, such as poverty, addictions, family violence, and homelessness, confronting Native families in the city. The founders were further concerned that while the Native family had many issues before it, few services within the mainstream sector were available to meet the needs of an increasingly voiceless and marginalized community.
The founders were guided by a vision that saw the development of a single point of access to a host of needed services all under the control and guidance of the community itself. Important features of such services were that they be family and child focused, holistic in their orientation, integrated, and preventative, with a strong Native cultural base as their foundation.
After more than 20 years, the Agency has gone from an $80,000 budget with two staff to an Agency of 180 staff and a service budget of over $20 million. It has a broad mix of services, multiple funders, is a Society under the Child and Family Services Act, a United Way member, a registered charity and in 1999 the winner of the Ruth Atkinson Hindmarsh Award for best practices in the service of children. Major funders include the Province of Ontario, United Way Toronto, the City of Toronto, the Government of Canada, the Toronto Community Foundation, and the Royal Bank of Canada.
NCFST is a Children’s Aid Society under the Child and Family Services Act. As such we have a mandate to protect children from all forms of maltreatment and to provide residential care for those children who need it.
Although we take the protection and care of our children very seriously, we recognize that we must do what we can to help families and children who need assistance. As a result, we see our responsibilities as including the provision of support services to all family members.
Our many support services include:
The largest Aboriginal Head Start program in the Country;
Summer resident and day camps;
An Ontario Early Years Centre;
Youth programs including the Native Learning Centre and 7th Generation Image Makers;
Children’s mental health services and case management;
The Scarborough Child and Family Life Centre;
Youth outreach services including transitional housing.
The community we serve
The Native population of Toronto is estimated at 60,000 adults and children. Of these, approximately 45,000 are status Indians; the others are Métis, non-status and Inuit.
Most of our clients are self-referred single parents with young children. Many are currently involved with our Child Welfare services, and some have children in our care and wish to work toward their return. Most are poor and isolated, without support in an environment deemed insensitive and inaccessible to Native people.
Across Canada, Native people lead in the statistics of suicide, alcoholism and family abuse. Native individuals, families and communities often experience high levels of dysfunction resulting from feelings of powerlessness, hopelessness and stress.
Indigenous people, as compared to any other racial or cultural group in Canada, have the lowest life expectancies and highest infant mortality rates, live in substandard and overcrowded housing, experience lower education and employment levels, and have the highest incarceration rates. It has been estimated that a Native child in Toronto is five times more likely to be apprehended and placed in the care of the CAS than any other child. Many of these children have graduated to living on the streets in Toronto.