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New mental health program for Toronto youth leaving the child welfare system

Updated: May 22, 2020

Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada launches Connections, a youth-in-

transition mental health hub

(TORONTO – April 10, 2019) – A new Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada program aimed at providing faster access to mental health supports is now available through a partnership with the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto. Since September, Connections has helped 158 young people in Toronto access mental health services, art therapy sessions and assisted young people with the financial resources required to pursue counselling and therapy in the community.

The youth-in-transition mental health hub was created by Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada in response to a persistent need by former youth in care who urgently require mental health services yet do not know where to turn to for help or feel discouraged from seeking assistance due to service gaps and long wait lists. They often suffer from unaddressed mental health issues due to early life traumatic experiences of abuse and neglect, which can cause lasting effects into adulthood. Children and youth in care are almost four times as likely to be diagnosed with a mental health disorder compared to children in the general population.

Implemented by Children’s Aid Society of Toronto (CAS of Toronto), the aim of Connections is to successfully bridge youth from care into adult services. The program’s mental health navigator meets with youth, conducts a wellness assessment and creates a customized care plan that assists youth to get the help they need within a short time period. Through established partnerships, the navigator identifies appropriate mental health experts and services available in the community and helps remove any barriers for youth in accessing these services, ultimately facilitating a smooth transition to adult services.

The type of support provided through Connections includes one-on-one counselling with trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapists; comprehensive assessments by an in-house primary care physician and psychiatrist; system navigation and referrals to established community services and partners. In addition, the mental health navigator works with an existing multidisciplinary team of health professionals at CAS of Toronto to identify any areas that may impact a youth’s mental health, such as physical health issues, vocational barriers, or lack of stable housing, and provides wraparound services in partnership with child and youth workers.

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