April 2012 marked a very important occasion for the Districts of Cochrane and Timiskaming. North Eastern Ontario Family and Children’s Services (NEOFACS) opened its doors effective, Monday, April 2nd, 2012.

North Eastern Ontario Family and Children’s Services is a new agency created by importing the very best from Jeanne Sauvé Family Services, Child and Family Services of Timmins and District and Timiskaming Child and Family Services.

The decision to amalgamate the legacy agencies followed recommendations from the Commission to Promote Sustainable Child Welfare. This commission was appointed in November 2009 by the former Minister of Children and Youth Services, the Honorable Laurel Broten. This Commission had a 3-year mandate to develop and implement solutions to promote sustainable child welfare in Ontario. The three legacy agencies were all natural partners for amalgamation as we share geographic proximity, many similarities in our demographics and our integrated service delivery models offer both children’s mental health and child welfare services.

Our efforts on the Amalgamation Project began with the development of a comprehensive plan detailing the amalgamation process, tasks, activities and timelines. This plan was submitted to the Commission in May 2011, was subsequently approved and served as a “road map” guiding the efforts of the amalgamation team in ensuring that the new agency would be operational on April 2, 2012. Services to children, youth and families remained available and accessible in both Districts throughout the amalgamation process.

We believe the amalgamation has allowed us to create a new organization that optimized the skills, innovative programs and cultural qualities of the legacy agencies. NEOFACS is built upon the strengths of each legacy organization and remains committed to providing a wide range of innovative, evidence based, quality programs and services designed to meet the unique needs of children, youth and families throughout the Districts.

A Tri-Agency Steering Committee, formed with 4 representatives from each of the legacy agencies Board of Directors provided oversight, and support to the amalgamation project. The Project Lead/Executive Director, a tri-agency senior management team and a project coordination team worked collaboratively to provide overall leadership to the Amalgamation Project.

The amalgamation was about working together as a team to build NEOFACS. The collective efforts of all will continue as we further develop a strong and sustainable children’s services Agency in all of the communities of our catchment area.

NEOFACS was not designed by staff alone; many key stakeholders were consulted with throughout the process. The voice of “community” served to inform significant elements of our service and operational planning.

It was an exciting journey; a journey defined by collaboration, engagement and relationships. Our conversations, debates and discussions, all served to set the stage that will identify us as we move forward. We are an engaged and passionate workforce who has come together to share knowledge and experience so that our new culture is born; a culture premised on learning and excellence in all we do.

Together we have built a dynamic, service-responsive agency by bringing the very best of our legacy agencies into the design of quality services to children, youth and families throughout Northeastern Ontario.