The Board of Directors of the Metro Association of Family Resource Programs (early 1990s), from which Family Supports Institute Ontario was formed

Back row, from left: Shirley Barnes, Angela Ottolino, Jasmine Earle, Ingrid Fish, Helen Harakas, Marg Cox, Lorna Sayed, Michael Ashton

Front row, from left: Shaida Addetia, Susan Poirier, Nancy Lyon, (TBD), Pat Fannon, Catherine Moher, Valerie Kenny

If you recognize someone not named, please let us know!

Family support began as a grassroots movement in the 1970s. Programs emerged from various movements in Canada and the United States advocating community belonging, from parent education and from advances in our understanding of child development that highlighted the importance of the early years. Programs emerged with a perspective of preventing social isolation as traditional systems of support diminished when women’s workforce participation increased during the feminist movement.

The field has undergone transformation in funding and branding throughout its history. As of January 1, 2018, four previous program “brands” (Ontario Early Years Centres, Parenting and Family Literacy Centres, Family Support/Resource Programs (Child Care Resource Centres), and Better Beginnings, Better Futures) have been renamed EarlyON Child and Family Centres. The process of transformation to EarlyON Child and Family Centres continues. Ontario also funds Healthy Babies, Healthy Children. Military Family Resource Centres, CAPC (Community Action Programs for Children), and CPNP (Canada Prenatal Nutrition Programs) are funded by the federal government.

The goal of family support programs has always been to support the interconnected well-being of child, family, and community. In turn, practitioners have also seen a need to come together and support one another in their work and encourage professional development. Families Canada was founded as a toy library association in 1975. The Ontario Association of Family Resource Programs (from which Family Supports Institute Ontario was formed) designed the Family Supports Certificate courses in 1994. FSIO continues the tradition of fostering inter-professional collaboration, advocating for family-centred policy, and facilitating professional learning, towards advancing the well-being of families.

Recently, FSIO:

  • Delivered the Essentials in Family Supports to 60 family support professionals working in EarlyON Child and Family Centres in York Region,
  • Hosted several Town Halls for family support professionals throughout the pandemic offering support and discussion on topics relevant to the changes in service delivery ie., Successes and challenges of Virtual Programming,  Outdoor Play, Supporting the mental health of our workforce, and a Q & A with the representatives from the Ministry of Education,
  • Updated our website to include resources that support the work of family support professionals across the province
  • Hosted a Conversation about Black Lives Matter with members of the black community at our Annual General Meeting
  • Mobilized more than 150 family support professionals and students to offer a family support program to Syrian refugees in a Toronto hotel on a volunteer basis
  • Facilitated an evening of hands-on learning and discussion regarding How Does Learning Happen?: Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years in family support programs
  • Participated on the Child and Family Centre Reference Group
  • Hosted a consultation on Building a Better Future: A Discussion Paper for Transforming Early Years and Child Care in Ontario

Kenny, V. (2016a). Module 1: Historical overview of family support programs [Online course notes]. Retrieved from Brightspace: BB073F2855D769BE5BF191F6378F7150
Weissbourd, B. (1994.) The evolution of the family resource movement. In B. Weissbourd & S. L. Kagan (Eds.), Putting families first: America’s family  support movement and the challenge of change, (pp. 28-47). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.