Children’s Mental Health

Care Heroes

Child and youth mental health care workers
going above and beyond.

Child and youth mental health services were already spread thin due to a lack of funding, and long wait times for treatments continue to persist. Still, these centres find innovative ways to meet the demand as best they can.

Our colleagues worked fast to do what they have not done before and offer virtual walk-in clinics and counselling appointments by phone, all with privacy and safety at the forefront of their efforts. For treatment for those with complex and intensive needs, workers continue to offer in-person services, including live-in treatment.


Thank You to Our Children’s Mental Health Care Heroes 

We want to take this time to thank all our children’s mental health care heroes across Ontario. Their hard work and sacrifices have a direct impact on the well-being of our children and youth. CMHO is very grateful for their services, especially during this time.

Our member agencies have nominated a few special people that have exceeded all expectations. Read these remarkable stories below.


Nominate Someone

If there is someone from the child and youth mental health sector who you would like us to recognize for the work they are doing during the pandemic, please send us an email.

Nicole Ellis

We would like to recognize Nicole Ellis for her creativity and dedication to youth mental health. Nicole works at one of Roberts/Smart Centre Live In Treatment services, the Cramer Live In Treatment Program. During a time where community supports are inaccessible, Nicole has sought and collected resources for…

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our youth on Indigenous practices. Nicole has completed a smudge using white buffalo sage and engaged youth in teachings of the sacred medicines.

The youth reported that they appreciate Nicole because she really gives them the opportunity to feel heard. Nicole adapts programming and implements resources that are appropriate for individual youth’s needs. She is always eager to take on new challenges and step in to support the program during times of need.

Nominated by Catherine Van Vliet


Kirsten Sheldrick

We would like to recognize Kirsten Sheldrick who recently started working at our Roberts/Smart Centre and is already making a difference. In a time where outings are limited and opportunities for socialization are constrained, Kirsten comes to work prepared with fun and new programming ideas to engage…

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Kristen has taken on the task of organizing daily programming for the youth, making a schedule/calendar, and collecting the supplies needed to run the activities. Kirsten has helped in the development and implementation of individualized programming for youth requiring 1:1 support allowing youth to make progress towards their treatment goals.

Kirsten’s co-workers enjoy working with her for her dedication and commitment to the youth we serve. Welcome Kristen and keep up the creative treatment work!

Nominated by Catherine Van Vliet


Ron Destiné

The Roberts/Smart Centre is proud to offer a private learning academy for our youth. Ron Destiné is our Youth Counsellor working at our Academy. Ron found it difficult to be away from the youth when the schools were closed. And so immediately, Ron offered to provide services to our live-in treatment programs…

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he put on the appropriate PPE and, following RSC safety protocols, he was back on the floor supporting the live-in treatment programs with much needed errands.

As soon as our academy reopened, Ron was welcomed with open arms (and a 2 meter distance ) in our live-in treatment programs where he works with our teacher and principal to bring individualized academics to our youth enrolled in the academy.

His ability to build positive relationships with youth makes him very popular and allows him to engage them in daily programming. In these difficult times, our youth are able to make progress on their academic goals with the support of Ron.

Nominated by Catherine Van Vliet

Katie Matthews

We would like to recognize Katie Matthews is a social worker who is assigned to a local high school, St. Ignatius by Children’s Centre Thunder Bay. She is seen by students and school administration as a mental health leader and is well respected within the school community. Since the school shutdown…

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Katie has remained actively involved with her school clients continuing to provide face to face sessions, as well as, successfully integrating Zoom and telephone counselling sessions into her practice.

In fact, Katie has been very effective in engaging clients in video counselling intervention and has subsequently, taken-on a leadership role within the school services team championing the removal of technology barriers and developing effective video counselling strategies.

Finally, Katie also facilitates a community group for LGBTQ youth called the Other 10%. Katie has ensured that this group remains up and running through this pandemic by using Zoom technology to ensure this well-received program continues.

Nominated by Dave Villella

Kim Caulfield

We would like to recognize Kim Caulfield, RSSW, as a Mental Health Hero. Kim continues to go above and beyond for our clients, our agency WAYS Mental Health Support, and the community. As a community support worker, she has been doing her best to stay connected to clients while providing virtual services.

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She has been offering direct service to a respite client in the family home. She voluntarily accepts front line shifts in our intensive live in residential programs, to provide client and agency support. She developed a strategy to refresh staff on Preventing and Managing Aggressive Behavior (PMAB) using a virtual platform.

She is always on the look-out for personal protective equipment and products for our staff and clients and has enlisted her family in this quest.

Kim’s efforts are greatly appreciated, and we believe she exemplifies the qualities of a Mental Health Hero.

Nominated by Michelle Edwards


Wendy Curnew-Harris

We would like to recognize Wendy Curnew-Harris a staff that has worked at Arrabon House for many years. We are a residential treatment home located in Parkdale and serves seven youth at this location. There are presently five youths in house and one is staying at her fathers. The staff at Arrabon House have …

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decided that the best way to keep the youth at the residence is to sequester with them through this crisis. Wendy has been in lockdown with them since March 23rd. She wants to continue this until it is safe to go back to a more normal schedule. There are also three other staff that are taking turns sequestering with her.

The youth at the residence are doing really well all things considered. We think the youth may feel safer knowing that they are not being abandoned as many of them have been in the past.

Wendy and the rest of the staff at Arrabon House are doing an amazing job. We are very fortunate to have such a dedicated staff team.

Nominated by Karen Prosper

Taija George

Taija George works in the Crisis Community Program based out of the Chatham Kent area and is so passionate about what she does. She went to see one of her clients who are very young during the pandemic.  She played X and O’s through the window with this young person who was so happy to see her and to connect.

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She let the young person know that she is still there supporting them. She has a great ability to think outside the box.

We’re recognizing Taija George for going above and beyond in a situation that does not have a protocol and for her heart of gold. She continues to reach her clients in need no matter what the circumstances.

Nominated by Christine Cuhna

Janice MacKay

We would like to recognize a Craigwood Children, Youth and Family Services, Program Supervisor, Janice MacKay. During the planning and execution of our Covid-19 response plan, she has worked tirelessly to ensure that there were strategies implemented to support the youth in our care.

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She did this by working with clients and their families, ensuring continuity of treatment plans while supporting all parties in managing both their anxieties and feelings of loss regarding connection.

She has also worked tirelessly developing staff schedules that provide adequate coverage and support to youth, while attempting to take care of staff by providing guidance, reassurance and praise for work well done.

These are trying times, Janice’s efforts have minimized its impact by being someone people can turn to for a friendly ear and welcoming smile. Craigwood Children, Youth and Family Services as well as CMHO appreciate all that she has done.

Nominated by Jackie Northmore

Jenny Strange

Throughout this very unpredictable situation, Youville Centre’s young clients and their children have been isolated at home without the face-to-face help of staff. Realizing the precariousness of this situation, their clinical supervisor Jenny Strange, pulled her team together and came up with a plan to offer…

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virtual care to all 55 of the young moms. She is leading her team of 3 psychotherapists and 3 case coordinators, as they provide virtual counselling sessions, help with finances, housing help, parent child attachment therapy and group therapy including life stress (anxiety and depression), parenting stress and youth engagement groups. Jenny’s philosophy which permeates all decisions is that staff will do all that they can do to help our moms maintain stable mental health so that they are able to respond appropriately to her child’s needs.

Jenny leads by example through hard work, innovation and teamwork. Not only is she providing 7, 1 hour, counselling sessions per day, she is also delivering grocery cards to clients who live all over Ottawa, calling staff everyday to ensure that they are healthy, and liaising with mental health experts in the City to ensure that Youville Centre is doing everything possible to enable our moms and children to make it through this crisis as a family.

Nominated by Bev MacKillop

Jenny would like to give a shout out to Youville’s fabulous ITSP team of Case Coordinators and Counsellors.

Crossroads Children’s Mental Health Centre (CCMHC)

We would like to recognize Crossroads Children’s Mental Health Centre (CCMHC). The nomination was meant to be for one individual however, Michael Hone felt it was important to highlight the entire organization. CCMHC was able to shift an entire set of services to virtual…

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within a 48 hour window without causing any impact on service delivery to the children and families they serve.

CCMHC have been able to conduct over 1900 sessions during the pandemic and continue to provide services to current clients and new families who have been struggling with managing during these unprecedented times.

Employees at CCMHC have implemented creative engagement strategies to interact with children via video conference and to provide therapeutic interventions.

Nominated by Michael Hone

New Path’s Live-In Treatment

We would like to recognize New Path’s Live-In Treatment staff team. They have adapted, got creative and found new ways to meet client needs and enhance relationships by creating indelible memories alongside our clients. Restrictions on direct family contact for Live-in Treatment Clients meant that family visits weren’t… 

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happening “face to face” during the first couple of months of the pandemic. One staff helped a young person play cards with her mother by using an Ipad. The staff acted as the mother’s hands and held cards up to the IPAD screen so “mom” could see and play along from home with her daughter.

Another time, a youth was on “sick procedures” and needing to be isolated in her room. The staff face-timed the youth from another room and the youth reported how fun it was to play “scattergories” with staff from different rooms in the house.

Staff and youth joined together to keep the residence clean and making signs to remind people about social distancing and the importance of washing hands.

A Live-in treatment youth and her mother spoke about how wonderful and supportive all the staff have been in these very difficult times. The mother also shared what a great experience it was to have her daughter and her brother connect over facetime to play the guitar together. The mother shared that it was one of the more meaningful connections this youth and her brother have had in a very long time.

A Live-In Treatment youth and her father standing at opposite ends of an outdoor staircase. The girl placed her ear to the top porch railing at opposite end and from her father at the bottom railing as he tapped the beat of a song so she could then hear it and they could feel a physical connection from a social distance. The two of them are both musically inclined and this was such a nice and unique way to connect through music!!

Staff are trying to maintain a sense of normalcy during these unique days by arranging for special meals and celebrations for our clients. They celebrated Easter, Cinco de mayo Day and Mother’s Day. They even kept things interesting with “Russian Cosmonaut Day”.

Nominated by Gord Bain


Taylor Robertson

We would like to recognize Taylor Robertson, a mental health care hero and staff member at Woodview Mental Health and Autism Services. He is the Child and Youth Worker in the Brantford Elementary Day Treatment program. Taylor has an unbelievable positive energy and endless optimism that lifts the room…

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of everyone around him. Tyler Beedham and him were both new to the program and he has made the transition process so smooth and enjoyable. He helps to create a truly safe space for our young clients with his amazing energy. Both kids and staff love working with him!

Nominated by Tyler Beedham

Marc Shimwell

The Jerome Diamond Adolescent Center (JDD) is a Day Treatment Program for youth run by Jewish Family and Child Service. Our program serves youth ages 11-17 and there are two separate programs for middle school and high school respectively. Each program is supported by a special education teacher…

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and a CYW (approximately 7:1).

Families engage in family therapy with a social worker, weekly. The Center also has the support of a consulting Psychologist and Psychiatrist. The schools closed their physical buildings around the middle of March due to the pandemic.

This has left children and their families in the program scrambling with how to proceed in terms of education and, perhaps more importantly, in terms of continuing to access the mental health support for their children. Concerns around social isolation, worsening mental health, and family strains became even more paramount.

The Center’s middle school Child and Youth Workers Marc Shimwell and Lee Thompson operate as a team. Within a week after returning from March break these two CYWs responded to the new realities caused by the pandemic admirably and creatively. They created a wonderful program, mostly virtually, that supports the students, their families, and their colleagues, in a way that has brought a sense of calm, cohesion and continuity to all of those involved with the program- this includes both the academic and therapeutic support they provide.

Almost immediately, a Google platform was put in place whereby the teacher can continue to deliver ‘live’ lessons for 2-3 hours every morning, with the CYW ‘in the class’ supporting the students with their academics, engagement, and behaviour.

After class the CYW meets one on one with each student to support and assess their needs. The CYW also connects with the parents daily to report any concerns and to praise the amazing efforts of the students. Each afternoon the CYWs meet via Zoom with the students as a group (without teachers) for a therapeutic session.

These sessions provide a wonderful social connection for the students and are intended to support engagement and interest in activities at a time when there are few outlets for fun in their lives. A few of the activities include weekly chess, online cooking, communication workshops and community circle.

These two outstanding CYWs have strived to provide continuity in their programming in a virtual way. The students have remained on task academically and they have been given an amazing opportunity to access emotional and social support.

Attendance is high and the feedback from the students and their parents has been overwhelmingly positive. They have even had inquiries from other programs about how and what they’re are doing as the word has spread.

Nominated by Robyn Cohen


Kelsey Campbell

We would like to recognize Kelsey Campbell, a mental health care hero for, Craigwood Children, Youth & Family Services. Kelsey organized an entire Easter celebration for our out-of-home youth in care. This included coordinating the meal, as well as preparing the treat baskets, and planning an entire…

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and a CYW (approximately 7:1).

egg hunt around our property. None of our youth were able to visit their families this year due to the coronavirus outbreak. Most of our kids were very disappointed about not being able to see their families during the long weekend and Kelsey was able to provide the support that they so desperately needed at the time.

This is just one example of the many things that Kelsey has done to go above-and-beyond.

she did all of that Easter stuff on her day off!!!

Nominated by Carter Gray


Peel Children’s Centre

We would like to recognize the frontline counselling staff at Peel Children’s Centre for their commitment to making a difference in the lives of children, youth and families, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are doing phenomenal work. It is important to recognize that within a span of 24 hours the entire agency…

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agency shifted its services from in-person to telephone counselling to ensure continuity of care and least amount of disruption in the delivery of service to children, youth and families we serve.

Then within two weeks or so the agency made counselling in the virtual space available. This was a big shift for their staff that were trained to deliver services in-person. In the new world order prompted by the pandemic, it was essential for staff to take rapid and consecutive training to prepare themselves and adjust to newer ways of doing the work in the virtual space within a short period of time.

Staff quickly learned, explored, and implemented creative and innovative ways of providing virtual counselling or therapy to children as young as 4 or youth as old as 25, and had many good news stories to share. Their staff ensured the least impact on service delivery to all families, especially where children had been separated from their families to ensure their safety. Due to our staff’s continued hard work families were reunited even under COVID-19, which is remarkable.

Additionally, recognizing that given the COVID-19 pandemic there will likely be an increase in the mental health issues caused by income loss within families, isolation, disruption to regular routines, and constant anxiety about safety and well-being, the agency set the goal to reduce the wait time for service, which was supported and implemented by the staff. These efforts have resulted in reduced wait for counselling services at Peel Children’s Centre. This would not have been possible without the relentless passion, responsiveness and commitment of their staff to deliver quality service to our clients. This is extraordinary especially because staff are also trying to deal with the trauma caused by the pandemic in their own lives while they are helping their clients get through it.

Hats off to all of Peel Children Centre’s frontline staff whether they are in counselling programs, Crisis Support, Intake team, Wrap around, intensive services, residential or day treatment programs. We will all get through this difficult time.

Nominated by Shamsa Iqbal


Key information to help your family through these challenging times.


Child and youth mental health agencies across Ontario are open and here for you


Helpful information for parents of children with mental illness.

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