In 2014, the Thorncliffe Collaborative for Muslim Families and Children was developed to improve access to culturally appropriate services in partnership with Children’s Aid Society of Toronto (CAST), local schools, community agencies, parents and community leaders in support of the CAST’s Anti-Oppression and Anti-Racism Policy. The CAST Community Development and Prevention Program at CAST has played an outreach, engagement and facilitation role. The CAST Intake staff and managers have built stronger bridges with the local schools and local agencies in this project.
Thorncliffe is an area in Toronto that’s home to a high percentage of Muslim families and has been designated a priority neighbourhood by The City of Toronto, as over 90% of individuals living in this area occupy high-rise apartments and half of the population spends over 30% of their income on housing. By helping to fund this initiative, the Children’s Aid Foundation is supporting:
- An increased awareness of child welfare services, among service providers and faith groups serving Thorncliffe-area families.
- Strategic recommendations for improved community services for Muslim families (e.g. recruiting and training parent outreach leaders from the Muslim community).
- Leading workshops that promote healthy family relationships.
- Identifying service providers and supports that can address community gaps and improve outcomes.
“Having all concerned agencies and service providers at one table has been key to making things happen. This project, Thorncliffe Collaborative for Muslim Families has given a voice to a segment that is often not heard – that is the voice of those with special needs”. – Parent Leader
This project has been successful due to very broad-based engagement and participation by key organizations and parents including: Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office, Toronto Public Health, Flemingdon Health Centre, Health Access Thorncliffe Park, Thorncliffe Public School, Toronto Public Health, Fraser Mustard Early Learning Academy, Canadian Mental Health Association, Afghan Women’s Organization, Valley Park Middle School, the Local Immigration Partnership, Geneva Centre for Autism, the Dar-es-Salaam Mosque and many others. Members of the collaborative have learned about child welfare services; completed a neighbourhood needs assessment; and developed a resource directory for families. In addition, the Geneva Centre for Autism has facilitated workshops in the community. Future initiatives include training community members who will then co-facilitate the workshops and facilitate Parent Support Groups. This collaboration provides support to parents who have children with autism and special needs and provides a safe and supportive environment for parents to share experiences, resources, and strategies. Through this collaborative venture, the Geneva Centre for Autism has partnered with parents in co-leading workshops that grow parents’ knowledge, confidence and social networks to better support children with autism and special needs.
“Through this collaborative, bringing culturally relevant workshops to this community has been key to getting the required help to the parents and children that need it most.” – Parent Leader
Like other community initiatives, this project is aimed at engaging parents in positive, preventative conversations and collaboration with local partners and agencies. Through this integrated approach, we strengthen family-child relationships and expand access to community resources.