Caithkin Treatment Foster Homes is a Ministry licensed residential care program providing therapeutic residential placements for vulnerable youth and young adults. Residential placements for individuals are referred to Caithkin by Child Welfare Agencies and Mental Health Agencies in Ontario.
Ainslie Tomlinson and Leslie Listro co-founded Caithkin Treatment Foster Homes in Wasaga Beach in May 2001. They employ a dedicated group of professionals committed to educating and supporting their foster families, including 14 Clinical and Administrative Staff, 30 Treatment Support Workers, and 9 Volunteer Drivers. While their head office is in Wasaga Beach, they currently have 35 foster homes located in Wasaga Beach, Collingwood, Barrie, Elmvale, Orr Lake, Angus, Pickering, Whitby, and Brampton.
Caithkin evolved from Ainslie’s belief that foster parents are the most critical foster care team members, providing therapeutic care 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for some of our society’s most vulnerable members. An organization such as Caithkin requires a passion for helping children be the best they can be. But, it must also meet and abide by the stringent administrative requirements from the Ministry of Children Community and Social Services, where Leslie’s strengths lie. So with a melding of their gifts and talents, Caithkin Treatment Foster Homes became a reality.
Parenting a foster child in many ways is no different than caring for a biological child. Still, there are additional systemic demands: they also participate in regular meetings with agency staff, meeting with child support workers, and supporting specialized individual needs. Caithkin believes that these dedicated families should be recognized as the professionals they are regardless of whether there is a formal “educational background.” Without their contributions to help all members of a treatment team understand the challenges that each child faces, Caithkin’s primary goal will not be achieved. Foster families are supported by the clinical team, whose responsibilities include ensuring that proposed placements “match” the family’s inner workings with whom they are placed and liaise with the placing agency, schools, and community resources on families’ behalf. Support to each home also includes a 24/7/365 emergency line, creative and skilled intervention of their Treatment Support Workers when deemed appropriate, and if appropriate, regular respite. Caithkin relies on committed volunteers who assist with the many transportation demands that accompany visits with biological family, medical and mental health professionals, and special school programming. The administrative staff ensures that they meet, at all times, the documentary requirements of Caithkin’s license.
Caithkin has received incredible support from organizations that have assisted with employment opportunities for youth, recreational and leisure opportunities that allow for healthy interaction with peers, and school boards continue to provide appropriate
academic placements for their clients. In 2003, Caithkin established the Murray MacInnes Bursary Program to thank the community and the resources that have supported them. Bursaries are awarded at each school where their clients attend. In secondary schools, a bursary is given to a graduating student who will pursue post-secondary education in social work or child and youth work and maintained an average of 80%. The elementary program provides an award to the “Most Improved Student.” Over the past 18 years, this program has assisted over 120 secondary school students and 175 elementary graduates.
Caithkin has demonstrated over the past 20 years its ability to provide long-term placements for clients referred to them. Their successes include reunifications to biological families, long-term placements and adoptions within the organization, and supporting their clients as they move to forever families of their own, graduations from secondary and post-secondary school, and several transitions to adult services. Local and community resources are utilized whenever possible to contribute to normalcy for individuals in their care.
Caithkin firmly believes that every child and youth is a “Super Hero” who deserves a chance to become the best child they can be to become the best adults they can be in the future. Currently, there are almost 18,000 children and youth living in foster care, and the need for stable home environments continues to grow.
One of the most challenging problems that we currently have is adjusting to the changes in expectations as our society changes with the increase of technology, social media, and information overload. We struggle to ensure that our responses are not just knee-jerk because society now expects immediate answers to everything. That is not always the best strategy when life decisions are being made. As an organization, we have sometimes struggled to ensure that our policies and procedures are modified to adjust to legislation and society changes. Covid-19 has affected our clients and presented many challenges this past year. We have had to explore alternatives to community resources and activities like summer camps and social clubs to satisfy leisure activities and socialization needs. We have also had to modify extensive protocols to be observed in our foster homes and with our Treatment Support Staff and office locations. Unfortunately, when stressors in society increase, as we have experienced over the past year with job losses, family tragedies, and mental health challenges, children tend to be the first victims.