A mind map of all the elements of the Family Reconnect Program.
The Family Reconnect Program’s offices and counselling space are located in Eva’s Place youth shelter.
Currently, the Family Reconnect Program consists of two Family Intervention Counsellors, a Manager, and a Clinical Consultant.
The Family Intervention Counsellors work directly with the youth and families in the program. The Counsellors provide family and individual counselling, case management, referrals, accompaniment and advocacy.
The Family Intervention Counsellors are integrated members of the shelter team. For example, one of the Counsellors facilitates a weekly Eva’s Place youth group, which offers interactive workshops, discussions, art activities, and movies. Family Intervention Counsellors participate in weekly shelter case conference meetings and are the case managers for Eva’s Place residents who are involved in the Family Reconnect Program.
Family Intervention Counsellors play a role in advocating for the significance of family in preventing and addressing youth homelessness, which includes program presentations for community agencies, parenting groups, schools, police and hospitals, as well as routinely presenting the work of the program at North American conferences.
The program’s Manager oversees the day to day operations of the program, including outreach, program promotion, budgets, funding reports, staff supervision and performance appraisals. As a member of the shelter’s leadership team and organization’s management team this position is active in seeking funding for the program and developing policies and procedures. The Manager also facilitates the intake process of new youth and families and assigns cases to the Family Intervention Counsellors according to current caseloads.
The Clinical Consultant provides ongoing clinical supervision and consultation to the Family Reconnect Program staff. The Clinical Consultant provides monthly individual supervision reviewing all casework and clinical practice. The Clinical Consultant assisted in the development of the Family Assessment Summary, the Progress and Discharge Summary, and the Clinical Supervision Notes form. They review these documents with the Family Intervention Counsellors during supervision. The consultant supports the clinical and professional development goals of the program’s staff and contributes to annual performance appraisals. Our consultant is a Registered Marriage and Family Therapist with the Ontario Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and a Registered Psychotherapist with the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario.
INTAKE AND REFERRALS
As previously mentioned, the Family Reconnect Program receives referrals from shelters, schools, the criminal justice system, parent support groups, as well as other relevant community agencies. These referral sources will submit a Referral Form (PDF, 65 KB) by fax or email. If the manager is contacted directly by a family, they will determine if the Family Reconnect Program is the best service to meet the family’s needs and will complete an Intake Form (PDF, 66 KB). The case is then assigned to one of the Family Intervention Counsellors, who will contact the family within 72 hours. It is not uncommon for the Counsellor to meet with the family within a week of the referral.
ENGAGING YOUTH AND FAMILIES WITHIN THE SHELTER
The program works very closely with the shelter staff to emphasize the significance of family in ending and preventing youth homelessness.
The following are examples of youth who are referred to the Family Reconnect Program. Once referred, the Family Intervention Counsellors meet with these youth within 72 hours.
- A 16 or 17-year-old
- A first-time shelter user
- Youth arriving at the shelter with family member(s)
- Youth talking to or about family and/or visiting family
- Youth requesting overnight visits with family
If a family member arrives at the shelter or calls to inquire about a bed for their youth, they are immediately directed to the Family Reconnect team. A Family Reconnect Program staff will meet with them before the youth intakes to explore alternative options; for example, the youth remaining at home with support from the Family Reconnect Program. If program staff are not available, shelter staff will provide the family with information about the program. Shelter staff will also email the Family Reconnect Program team with information about the new intake.
The Family Reconnect Program assists with long distance phone calls, speaks with family members to arrange overnight visits, and supports transportation costs for youth to visit or return to family outside the city.
“The (Counsellor) expressed a desire to meet with us and was so sensitive to the delicate mindset I was in, she suggested she would come to our home and meet. I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.” (A parent)
The Family Reconnect Program strives to make the program accessible in a number of ways.
We aim to connect with families within 72 hours of being referred to the program. It is not uncommon for the Counsellor to meet with the family within a week of the referral. Our goal is to not have a waitlist due to the urgent needs of families. Our experience has been that a long wait for service could result in a young person becoming homeless.
We offer very flexible hours of service. The Counsellors work four 10-hour days to accommodate evening appointments. The Counsellors are also required to have a car, as we offer a mobile service and will meet with youth and families in the community or in family homes. To ensure staff safety, Counsellors are provided with cell phones and details of off-site meetings are recorded in an electronic scheduler.
There is no cost and no time limit for services or cap on the number of sessions. We continue to work with youth and families as long as needed, based on family and youth goals, as well as clinical judgement.
The location of our office is accessible by public transit, and we are able to provide clients with tokens for transportation, if needed. We are located in a shelter, so it is important that we have a separate entrance for the Family Reconnect Program to maintain confidentiality of the shelter residents. Our counselling room is comfortable and private.
There are also a number of “smaller”, but significant, services for our clients to support connection with their families. We provide long distance calling cards for youth to keep in contact with their family, as well as holiday and birthday cards with stamps. We also offer families and youth food packages, and partner with other organizations that donate holiday gifts to families each year.