History I

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Main House-Oak Ridges

The following is an excert from the  
BROWNDALE INFORMATION AND RESOURCE MANUAL -VOL.I -Originally written and edited by Carol Dukoff and Elaine Smith

 

St. Faith's Lodge - 1916 to 1952

In 1916 six Anglican churches, in the downtown Toronto area joined together. Through this the "Downtown Church Workers Association" was formed to meet the specific needs of children and families. A subcommittee was also formed to specifically meet the needs of girls. St. Faith's Lodge was then set up to serve 12 girls who would be "turned from the downward path on which they were starting and persuade them to a better way of life". While in residence, the courts retained jurisdiction.

Religious teachings,housework, sewing and school occupied their time.

Severely incorrigible girls were not admitted, nor were any girls over the age of 14. Girls being held at St. Faith's Lodge (for detention) were expected to stay a minimum of nine months. In 1923 the service was extended to include referrals from other agencies and detention cases were refused. Girls from the Anglican faith was given first priority.

In 1942 St. Faith's severed relations with the Downtown Church Workers Association and an independent board was established to operate the Lodge. The strain of the war years intensified the problems of the Lodge and a high percentage of behavioral problems among the girls made it difficult to retain staff.

In 1947 the Board of St. Faith's asked the Welfare Council to survey the work of the Lodge and to advise future policy. The survey confirmed the need for residential care for teenage girls when their own or foster families did not provide the setting necessary for their development.

The Lodge closed its doors completely in 1950 due to internal and external pressures. The Board left several recommendations for future consideration:

The place and function of the institution must be worked out in relation to the whole child in a welfare community; There must be an acceptance and an understanding of the institution by agency social workers; what it offers, how it operates, etcetera; Every social worker placing children could benefit from working in a similar institution; Children must be screened and admitted slowly;

Adequate psychiatric services are essential and should be readily available; A larger residence, larger grounds and sufficient qualified personnel, who could live in, are essential; There should be a provision of space for isolation of behaviour problems;

It would be more realistic to have a wider age range, either include younger girls or serve both boys and girls;

Whichever group of children would be served, limits should be clearly established within which behaviour of all kinds must conform; It must be understood that most of the work of caring for the institution physically cannot be expected to be done by the children; It was recommended that matters of allowance, clothing purchases, etcetera, be handled by the institution.

St. Faith's reopened in 1952, under the name Warrendale in memory of Mrs. Warren who had been President of the Board of St. Faith's Lodge for 30 years. The Board was reorganized with more youthful and progressive members. The Board and Dr. M. Fischer hired aprofessionally qualified group worker, John Haddad, as Executive Director. A suitable property was located in Newmarket and was purchased after representatives from referring agencies approved it. Staff was hired. So with a new Board, new program, new policies and the sanction of the community, Warrendale began its operation as a new agency on August 1,1952.

Specifically, Warrendale's function was to be a specialized non-denominational residential centre for girls aged 12 to 15 years, who required continued diagnosis and treatment in a group setting.

Placement at Warrendale was seen to be an intermediate step toward more normal family living, either with the child's own family or some plan approved by the referring agency. The agency operated as a residential centre for one year.

In 1953, the Executive Director, John Haddad, resigned and John Brown was hired by the Board of Directors to replace him. Again, the Board and new Executive Director re-evaluated the program. As a result, the goal for Warrendale was to move toward becoming a treatment centre for emotionally disturbed girls. Admissions had been handled by a committee of the Board and Children's Aid Society. This committee was abolished and all intake was to be handled by the Director of Warrendale. In order to provide a "Total Therapeutic Involvement" it was decided that the staff were to live in residence. This was a new venture. Treatment centers in Ontario were non-existent and there were no formalized, practiced guidelines to follow. The main concerns of the new Director and his staff group were very practical: How could everyone live together? How would each person handle the ups and downs of communal life? How could the needs of upset, unhappy and confused adolescents’ best be met?

How would the local community and the professional community view this new approach in institutional care?

John Brown and his staff very quickly discovered that they would have to develop a new model for the care of disturbed children.

Nothing in John's past work experiences and nothing in the past experiences of the other staff had prepared them for what was now being asked of them. Suddenly, all their training, group work and clinical experiences no longer seemed pertinent. They needed to develop new methods to apply to everyday life situations at Warrendale. They were quite sure they did not want to try to fit the children into neat little packages of what they did know. If this had been an acceptable way to handle the girls, they would never have needed a treatment centre ... they would have responded to past settings, very quickly it became clear that there would have to be rules and regulations, not just for the sake of rules and regulations, but rather to allow everyone to live together in a safe way and to ensure that the needs of the children could be met. In the past, routines in institutions had become necessary evils or were rationalized as character builders. In some institutions, routines had come to mean work and often child labour had become an almost indispensable part of the economics of children's institutions. The aim of the staff at Warrendale was to use routines in a constructive way and to the therapeutic advantage of each child.

The first thing the staff did was to set up a series of observation sheets. At the end of each day the total staff group would sit together and go over them, to see if they could learn something new about the routine procedure in their house. Within a week the staff decided to revolutionize the bedtime routines because they were not relevant to the needs of the children. The staff went through item after item in the internal structure of Warrendale, examining, altering, re-examining, to better meet the needs of individual children and at the same time have the basic daily functioning of the house carry on. The staff found they could cater to special, individual needs of the child around routine times and in this way support the child through a successful day. The adoption of routines was not intended to have them handled so rigidly as to avoid every possible conflict or feeling. The staff found that, if handled properly, routines could set up a relaxing atmosphere that offered predictability and support to the child.These changes affected the staff. They had to learn an openness with each other, learn to use one another, to discover and appreciate their personal strengths and limitations. Each day life in the treatment house was evaluated, not only in terms of the children and how they were managing, but also in terms of each staff person.

Originally, all the girls attended community schools. However, there were some children referred who could not handle the stress and expectations of community school. The very first Warrendale School was a desk in the kitchen of a former teacher who was now married and the mother of one infant: The Warrendale girl had all her lessons in the kitchen of the home of that teacher. By 1957 Warrendale had a formal school in the garage on the Warrendale property. There were from two to six pupils and the content of the teaching was secondary to the attitudes of the girls towards the teacher and towards learning in general. The major philosophy of the school was that the relationship of the teacher to the child was the most important function of the school. Aside from lessons during school time, there was a continual amount of fantasy and play acting. When the girls had resolved their feelings about teachers and adults and could perceive them in a different light, they could usually manage to go back to community school.

In 1958 the staff decided to divide the large group of girls into several small groups. This was done, primarily because of the larger number of girls in residence. As well there were several eleven and twelve year old girls referred. By 1963 Warrendale was offering :

Family oriented treatment services. After care to children and families, involving prospective foster or adoptive parents in group and individual counseling. Out patient services, available to families and children who, with the help of individual and/or group counseling were able to maintain a certain level of functioning within the community.