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June 2nd - Kids Come First Health Extension Update

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

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


©2019 by Jan Harder.