Until early 1900 there were no official child welfare organizations in Canada; nor was there any legislation to
protect children. Some children in need were cared for in orphanages, churches and individuals helped others.
Many children were left to fend for themselves or to grow up under conditions of hardship and deprivation.
In Toronto, a young newspaperman, John Joseph Kelso was zealously championing the cause of children in
that city. Distressed by the sight of homeless and destitute children begging or selling trinkets on the streets,
he became convinced that an organization was needed to protect children. Through his effort, the first Canadian Children's Aid Society was established in Toronto in 1891. This was followed in 1893 by the passing of Canada's
first Act for the Prevention of Cruelty to and Better Protection of Children.
This Act authorized the formation of citizen-directed organizations throughout Ontario, to be known as Children's
Aid Societies, and delegated to these Societies the responsibility of caring for children who were deprived of care
in their own homes. The Act also provided for the transfer of guardianship of children found to be neglected by their parents to a Children's Aid Society, by due process of law.
Mr. Kelso was made the administrator of the Act, and he immediately began a campaign to organize Children's Aid Societies across Ontario. Due in large part to his fervor and dedication, the next two decades saw the growth of a network of these societies, which eventually reached every part of Ontario.
LOCAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE CHILDREN'S AID SOCIETY
The influence of Mr. J. J. Kelso was soon felt in Simcoe County and our records contain many personal letters of advice, support and encouragement to socially conscious individuals throughout the County. In February 1894, a Children's Aid Society was formed in Barrie, followed by the June 1894 formation of one in Orillia. In May 1897, a Society was formed in Collingwood and a fourth Society came into being in Midland in August 1907. These Societies operated primarily as small volunteer committees who met monthly or as required and members would be delegated to investigate concerns about children. The local Constable was often a member of these committees and the most consistent active supporters were drawn from the ranks of local clergy, ladies auxiliaries and leading businessmen.
Their work and efforts spread throughout the County and the need for co-ordination led to the granting of a Charter on November 26, 1913 for The Children's Aid Societies of Simcoe County. The first Board of Directors, chosen a year later, was comprised of seven Barrie men. Unfortunately this led to the gradual disappearance of the four branches.
Political representation did not occur until 1928 when the Reeve of Barrie was appointed to the Board and five years later a representative from County Council was added. Broader representation did not occur until the years 1939 to May 1943, when the number of board members increased to twenty; ten chosen from outside Barrie. The Board was further enlarged in 1949 to twenty-three and the present Board structure of seventeen members, half of them municipally appointed, occurred in 1961.
The first shelter was opened in 1914 and its matron became the first full-time employee of the Simcoe County Children's Aid Society. In May 1916, Mr. W. J. Justice was appointed as the first full-time employee other than shelter staff. Early in 1937, Mr. Gordon Foster was hired as the Inspector's Assistant and a year later became Superintendent with Mr. Justice remaining as Consultant until his death in 1946.
The placement of County children in a shelter in Barrie continued from 1914 until June 1944 when the use of subsidized receiving homes and foster homes throughout the County became the practice.
The return to decentralization and the formation of branch offices occurred during the 1940's with Midland forming the first branch office in May 1941. This was followed by Orillia in May 1946. This organization provided more direct service at the local community level and the decision to eventually close these offices was questioned. This did however occur during an eight-year period and by 1966 the Society was again being operated from a central office in the old Court House in Barrie.
The office relocated to the County Administration Centre in Midhurst in November 1973. The process to decentralize was instituted in 1985, as the merits of decentralized services to the children of the county appeared to outweigh those of centralized service. In October 1990 the head office relocated from Midhurst to 80 Bell Farm Road in Barrie and with significant increase of staff and demand for more space, head office moved to its current location at 60 Bell Farm Road in Barrie.
Today the Simcoe County Children's Aid Society has 250 employees in six offices throughout Simcoe County.