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Keachie Talks

January 16, 2008 permalink

The new executive director of Dufferin Child and Family Services, Trish Keachie, spoke to the Orangeville Banner. With new management comes the hope that past abuses will be reformed. So far there is little sign of any change for the better. Her only reference to past activities by her agency is the statement: "There's that sort of -- hopefully old-fashioned -- notion [of] 'kid snatchers'". She seems to view the problem as one of public perception, not one of misconduct by children's aid. She ends the interview with praise for the agency's staff.

In bullying families, shrinks and therapists assert that a victim, oops client, cannot begin to mend his ways until acknowledging that he has a problem. Mrs Keachie so far has not acknowledged a problem with children's aid.



Multiple roles is DCFS's strength says new director

Trish Keachie
Trish Keachie is the new executive director at Dufferin Child and Family Services.

Trish Keachie has a mission at Dufferin Child and Family Services. The new executive director (ED) says that despite efforts to inform the public about DCFS's mandate, there is still some confusion. Keachie says her organization isn't just Children's Aid, nor is it just mental health services. In fact, it's both, plus services for kids with developmental disabilities. And the synergy of these three roles, she says, is DCFS's strength.

Keachie has been spending weekends in Hockley for four years. That's when she bought a retreat to get her out of the city, where, most recently, she served as manager of the City of Toronto's Supporting Communities Partnership Initiative, a federally-funded program, devoted to the homeless, with an annual budget of $17 million.

The new ED found her job in the newspaper. She'd been keeping an eye out for meaningful work that would allow her to relocate permanently to Hockley.

"I just really like it up here," she says. Keachie says she's had "a lot of management experience," and wanted to finish out her career in a leadership role in a small community -- a place where politics wouldn't have as large an impact on the decisions she could make.

Keachie took over the job from Gary Putman on Nov. 19, although the former ED stayed around until the end of the month to ease the transition. With an annual budget of about $10 million, and a staff of around 100, Keachie says her short-term goal is to learn the ins and outs of the agency. She has a number of long-term goals for the agency, however, chief among those are improving integration of the organization's multiple roles, and informing the public of those very roles.

Keachie says some members of the public have a negative perception of Children's Aid services; "There's that sort of -- hopefully old-fashioned -- notion [of] 'kid snatchers'," she says. But she says there's been a "huge shift" toward making every effort to work with families (while still being vigilant about child safety). She says the provincial ministry's agenda has resulted in reforms over the past two years, and that the current emphasis is on "really trying to keep families together," where possible, and, where children must be removed permanently, a redoubled effort to place them in new, permanent families as quickly as possible.

The ED says the agency is helping families on a voluntary basis, too, even placing children in foster care on a short-term basis when adult behaviour isn't a direct threat to the kids but precludes being able to care for them. A single parent with profound medical problems or needing help with addiction might be examples.

As for integration of services, Keachie says it's improved the service DCFS can offer. Many clients -- adult or children -- need services from two or even three of the agency's mandates. Kids who need Children's Aid may also need mental health help. Likewise, families with developmentally disabled kids may be under other strains that necessitate assistance. By placing these different functions under one roof, counsellors and staff "can get [some] really nice synergy." The ED hopes to see greater consistency in the way the agency handles its various responsibilities.

She would also like to see DCFS increase its activist profile. She wants the group to play a government relations role as an advocate for children; she'd like to see child advocacy groups come together and speak with one voice. She also thinks the publicly-funded agency should look for private donor sources of money. She says Toronto sometimes felt awash with cash, but that isn't the case in Dufferin.

A further challenge on the horizon for DCFS is accreditation by the Ontario Association for Children's Aids Societies and Children's Mental Health Ontario. The agency is a member of both. The ED anticipates it being a two-year process.

Keachie is pleased with what she's found so far at DCFS: "I can't tell you how impressed I am with the staff," she says. With more work on public relations, she hopes the general public will become more aware of what she believes that staff can do for the community.

Source: Orangeville Banner