About Us

Native Child and Family Services of Toronto (NCFST) is a multi-service urban Aboriginal agency providing holistic, culture-based programs and services for Aboriginal children and families. NCFST strives to provide a life of quality, well-being, healing, and self-determination for children and families in the Toronto urban Aboriginal community. We do this by implementing a service model that is culture-based and respects the values of Aboriginal people, the extended family and the right to self-determination.

Established in 1986, by Elders, knowledge keepers, grassroots leaders, and community members, NCFST has been supporting Aboriginal children and families in Toronto for more than three decades. In 2004 NCFST was directed by the Aboriginal community to accept a child welfare mandate to decolonize Aboriginal child welfare in the City of Toronto. NCFST continues to do this work through the integration of holistic, culturally-based prevention services that are child centered, family focused, and community driven.

Guided by the vision of providing holistic, culture-based integrated services with the guidance of the Aboriginal community, NCFST offers a full range of prevention programs, treatment and healing services, early years programs, youth programs, and cultural and recreational programs to all members of Toronto’s urban Aboriginal community.

Mission Statement

Native Child and Family Services of Toronto strives to provide a life of quality, well-being, caring and healing for our children and families in the Toronto Native Community.

We do this by creating a service model that is culture-based and respects the values of Native people, the extended family and the right to self-determination.

Service Model

Founded in 1986, our service model was developed through four days of ceremony by Aboriginal Elders, knowledge keepers and community leaders. It directs us to develop a holistic and sustainable multi-service organization to support the quality of life of Aboriginal children and their families in Toronto.  The community that came together to create NCFST was responding to the impacts of residential schooling and a European model of child welfare on Aboriginal children and families.  Our service model directs us to develop and deliver integrated services for healing, wellness, and family supports sufficient to provide Aboriginal children and their families with multiple pathways to a quality life.  We do this by developing programs and services that are grounded in Aboriginal values, knowledge, best practice and worldview.

Interim Leadership Council

Over the Winter of 2022/2023 the Board of Directors at Native Child and Family Services of Toronto (NCFST) made the decision to transition away from a mainstream hierarchical leadership structure towards an Indigenous governance model.  This transition is currently underway.  The Board of Directors will be working with community, staff, partners, and a recently formed Elders Advisory Circle to develop a new form of Indigenous governance for the Agency over the next 12-16 months.

During this transitional period, NCFST is being led by an Interim Leadership Council supported by the Board of Directors.  This Interim Leadership Council is comprised of all the Directors at NCFST who are leading the agency through an Indigenous process of consensus-based decision-making, with support and guidance from the Board of Directors as needed.

The members of our Interim Leadership Council include:

MELISSA HAMONICDirector of Holistic Services

Melissa Hamonic (she/her) is Red River Métis and was born and raised in St.Malo, a small community in southern Manitoba, the heart of the Métis Homeland. Melissa is a proud member of the Métis Nation of Ontario and is an active member of the Toronto York Region Métis Community. 

Melissa holds a Master’s Degree in Studio Art from the University of Guelph and a Master’s Degree in Social Work from York University. She has been with NCFST for several years and has held positions as Mental Health Worker on the Mook’am Team, Clinical Supervisor, and Associate Director of Holistic Services. She was instrumental in the development and expansion of the Anti-Human Trafficking program and the Mdewgaan Healing Lodge. 

Melissa brings creativity and enthusiasm to her work and is passionate about strengthening kinship and supporting Indigenous wellness across sectors. 

JENNIFER TURNERDirector of Child and Family Wellbeing

Jennifer Turner (she/her) is of Mohawk and Scottish ancestry. She was born and raised in Brantford, Ontario, close to Six Nations of the Grand River.

Jennifer has been at Native Child and Family Services of Toronto for several years having started at the agency as a frontline Child and Family Wellbeing worker. She has also held positions as a supervisor and manager of Child and Family Wellbeing.

Jennifer has been working in the community in various roles for the past 25+ years since completing her formal education.  The last 21 years have been spent in Child and Family Wellbeing at both mainstream and Indigenous agencies.

Jennifer is passionate about children, youth and family’s wellbeing and finding creative ways to assist with this. Her goal is to provide culturally grounded wraparound services to the children, youth and families that NCFST works with, ensuring that children and youth are always at the centre of all decisions made.

RON HODGSONDirector of People and Culture

Ron Hodgson is a member of Kijicho Manito Madaouskarini Algonquin First Nation who’s traditional and present day community is within the area of North Hastings County. Being separated from his culture as a child, he continues to reclaim and grow his understanding of how to apply traditional teachings to the way he lives and works. Ron identifies as 2SLGTBQ+ and uses the pronouns he/him/his. He sits on the OACAS LGBT2SQ+ Committee and was instrumental in the development the 2SLGBTQ+ committee at his previous agency. Ron began his career in marketing after graduating from George Brown College before transitioning to human resources almost 15 years ago. He continued his professional learning by completing a post-graduate diploma in Labour Relations at Algonquin College along with facilitator certificates from DDI and Franklin Covey. He has held leadership roles at Casino Rama Resort, and most recently at Dnaagdawenmag Binnoojiiyag Child & Family Services as Human Resources Manager. Ron is passionate about his work and applying cultural teachings, knowledge and experiences to build relationships that support employee satisfaction. He has diverse experience working in the areas of talent management, employee/labour relations, training/development, employee engagement, employee wellness and ability management with the goal of building a culture of inclusion and continued improvement that will best support children, youth, families and Indigenous communities. Personally, Ron resides on his family’s hobby farm with his husband, grandmother and many animals. He is an active member of the community and enjoys time spent with friends and family.

JEFFREY SCHIFFERDirector of Governance and Strategy

Jeffrey Schiffer is a cultural anthropologist, human services leader and child advocate who was born in Vancouver, BC- on unceded Coast Salish Territory. He grew up at the intersection of mainstream and Indigenous organizations and has worked in the post-secondary, public service, and non-profit sectors. Like so many of the community members serviced by NCFST, Jeff’s maternal family history is fractured by Canada’s shared colonial history: he is not a status Indian or formal member of a First Nations, Métis or Inuit Community, but his maternal family includes the Turcotte, Lemire, Piquette, and Fortin families – all of whom travelled along Métis voyageur trade routes and road allowances in a multi-generational journey from Quebec, into the Dakotas, and through Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Jeff self-identifies as a Canadian with European and Indigenous ancestors. Jeff is passionate about building integrated and coordinated systems of human services that focus on the safety, health, wellbeing, and prosperity of children. His dissertation focused on decolonizing Indigenous child welfare in Canadian cities. Over the past 15 years he has held various positions at the Earth Institute at Columbia University, Vancouver Aboriginal Child and Family Services Society, the Justice Institute of British Columbia, the City of Toronto, and Native Child and Family Services of Toronto.  Jeff is currently the Director of Governance and Strategy at NCFST and volunteers his time serving on a number of board and committees.

VERONIKA BENCZEDirector of Finance and Adminstration

Veronika Bencze assumes a leadership role in the finance, payroll, facilities, administration, and information technology area as a Director of Finance and Administration at NCFST. Veronika also supports the Board of Directors and the Finance Committee. As a member of the Interim Leadership Council, she ensures that the structure and business processes are efficient and aligned with the strategic plans and financial resources.  Her expertise has been acquired from the ground up moving from an individual contributor into a Director position with increasing seniority and authority. Veronika’s experience has been gained in postsecondary education settings, government agencies, charities, and not-for-profit organizations. She has proven leadership experience in financial reporting, budgeting, financial planning, and forecasting. During her career, she has built and led high-performing teams, participated in the strategic planning process and risk assessment, and has been actively involved in change management initiatives. Veronika is a strong advocate of lifelong learning as evidenced by her formal academic career including a Bachelor, a Master of Business Administration, a Ph.D. degree, and a CPA designation. Veronika is Ivey Business School’s alumna. She taught strategic planning and strategic management along with other subjects in business administration at the University of Pecs in Hungary for six years before immigrating to Canada in 2002.  When not busy with her work, Veronika enjoys swimming and hiking with her family and their dogs.