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Kids Come First extends its wrap-around support for at-risk children and youth

Author: Kids Come First | Les enfants avant tout

19 August 2021

Ottawa —  With safety top of mind, the Kids Come First Health Team has come together for some of the region’s most vulnerable children and youth — those who are, or at risk of, experiencing maltreatment, such as abuse or neglect — during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Home may not always be a safe place, but it is the only place young people have been allowed to be for weeks.

Add in school closures, and financial and emotional stresses on families, organizations working with at-risk families have seen a looming risk for kids. Child welfare agencies, police services and hospitals have seen an unprecedented drop in the reporting of maltreatment. The Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa (CASO), for example, reported a 50% decrease in referrals in March and April.

However, the experts know that maltreatment has not gone away during the pandemic; it has become more hidden.

A concern for the kids and teens they weren’t seeing brought together CHEO, The Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa (CASO), Ottawa Police Service (OPS) and Ottawa Public Health (OPH) — all partners in the Kids Come First Health Team — to improve care for this vulnerable group. It’s a collaboration that has led to a number of initiatives, including a daily triage meeting, and better access to mental health and crisis care, as well as to specialized medical assessments.

Every morning, the partners meet to discuss cases, acting like a multi-sector triage team to see what they can do, with all the services at hand, to best support families and protect children and youth.

They have been able to stop children from slipping through the cracks. By developing an immediate, coordinated plan that wraps around a family — supporting them with the right professionals in the most appropriate location — the partners are working as one team, like a system should, to improve access to care, which is a top priority of the Kids Come First Health Team.

There is now also better access to hospital and community mental health services — including with Youth Services Bureau (YSB), another Kids Come First partner — by enabling child protection workers and police to directly refer a young person to these services. In addition, the moment those professionals see a crisis in a home, YSB’s crisis staff can be called upon to help. 

At CHEO, Kids Come First is offering a new clinic led by a nurse practitioner (NP).  The NP-led clinic provides rapidly accessible health services for children transitioning in or out of the care of the CASO, often because they don’t have a primary care provider in the community. The NP also oversees the multi-sector triage meeting to make sure each child and family gets the support they need. 

In addition to the work above, the partners, with YSB, are launching a social media campaign reminding everyone that the Kids Come First partners are #HereToHelp613.


—     “It takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a village to keep a child safe. Bringing together these Kids Come First partners each day to talk about what we’re seeing, allows us to wrap around young people and their families more quickly and effectively. We each have a part to play and we do it better when we do it together.” —Dr. Michelle Ward, Division Head, Child and Youth Protection, CHEO

—     “The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how important it is for vulnerable children, teens and their families to have supports in place. Ottawa Police has expressed concerns with a decrease in calls for service related to children and teenagers in need. Our usual community liaisons, like schools and daycares, no longer have daily access to kids who may be victimized.  The Kids Come First partnership provides a framework for medical, mental health, social and policing partners to work together with the goal of ensuring the safety and wellbeing of those who are further isolated during the pandemic.” —Insp. Jim Elves, Specialized Investigations Ottawa Police Service

—     “The safety and well-being of children and youth is our priority and providing families with increased wrap-around supports and services is paramount to successful outcomes.  The Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa (CASO) recognizes the best approach to supporting and strengthening families, is the work done ahead of time to keep children protected and safe within their own families. Partnerships like Kids Come First continues to help us make that happen.” —Kelly Raymond, Executive Director, Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa

—     “OPH continues to work for the well-being and the security of children and their families in Ottawa, recognizing that COVID19 has increased the challenges many face. The Kids Come First Health Team has allowed us to come together with our partners to enhance our response and to keep everyone safe through these difficult times for all of us and more specifically for the most vulnerable families.   OPH is proud to be part of this important initiative.” —Dr. Vera Etches, Medical Officer of Health, Ottawa Public Health

If anyone is concerned for the safety of a child or youth they know, please call the Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa at 613-747-7800.


About Kids Come First Health Team

Kids Come First Health Team includes 61 partner organizations, 1,089 physicians, and 2,535 individuals who are committed to making child and youth health services easier to obtain; helping eastern Ontario’s Ontario Health Teams provide care to children and youth; and to supporting physicians and clinical leaders who provide care to children, youth and families.  Our initial priority populations include: children and youth with mental health and addictions as well as those with medically complex needs.