OCYI Story: Community Services Recovery Fund

This year, OCYI was awarded funding, through the Community Services Recovery Fund, for an innovative new project focused on mental health capacity building in critical hours programs. 


Granted through the United Way and Employment and Social Development Canada, this funding will be used to support OCYI’s commitment to bettering the day-to-day mental health and well-being needs of children and youth in our community. 


The Community Services Recovery Fund (CSRF) is a large investment from the Government of Canada to support community organizations who are in the process of recovering from the pandemic and adapting to new challenges faced by both staff and those they serve. 


As OCYI provides a collaborative platform for 80+ community service organizations, working to foster the positive, healthy growth of the children and youth in Ottawa, this grant will allow OCYI to better meet the needs of children and youth in our community through many organizations at the same time.  


OCYI’s partner organizations, especially members of the Critical Hours Task Group, are already looking forward to the launch of three new and enhanced projects now possible through the CSRF. Over the past few years, they have seen more children and youth struggling with their mental health than ever before. While the pandemic has impacted children and youth in many unique ways, it has become increasingly clear that additional mental health and well-being support is needed for children and youth at all levels, as well as staff.  


Critical hours programs, offered by many OCYI partners, are essential in the daily lives of many local children, youth, and their families. These programs fill the critical hours between when children and youth finish school, and the end of their parents’ workday and beyond. These programs significantly enhance social, academic and emotional outcomes for those they serve. Recently, there has been significant staff turnover in these programs and additionally, for many organizations, their own resources, including finances, staff, and time, continue to be stretched thin. The CSRF is supporting Critical Hours Task Group work to map programs, host a training conference, and update training videos, all in the name of better equipping critical hours program staff to support the children and youth in their programs. 


Projects include a project initiative which will involve mapping programs in Ottawa. By knowing where programs are, gaps can be seen and addressed. Additionally, existing programs will become more aware of other similar options in their neighbourhoods, allowing for networking and relationship building. The relationship with OCYI and the Critical Hours Task Group will be strengthened as well, allowing for staff in critical hours programs to build their supports and training together, particularly around mental health and well-being. 


A Critical Hours Staff Training Conference, taking place in early November, will ultimately support organizations to deliver higher quality programs based on their central mandate, such as recreation, education, or community building. The intent of the training day is to increase the capacity of staff in child and youth-serving organizations that do not deliver direct mental health and well-being services by providing them with the training to be able to better support children and youth. This training may also reduce staff turnover by giving them additional tools, resources, and support to do their work. 


Says Beth Tooley, Coalition Coordinator, Ottawa Coalition of Community Houses, and Co-chair of the Critical Hours Task Group, “Offering training opportunities for frontline staff is a great way to build the capacity of community-based organizations to address the well-being of children. The CSRF is helping us put together a day of learning and sharing that will focus on how to create and maintain safe spaces for young people- something we know is so important after the last three years.” 


Beth also looks forward to a third project entailing the redevelopment of valuable training videos. “The original training videos have served us well, allowing for critical hours programs across Ottawa to provide their staff with foundational skills. In reflecting on what we have learned and taking into consideration the long-term impacts of the COVID pandemic on children, it is timely to review and update the Critical Hours Three Pillars training videos to equip staff who are planning and implementing children's programs.

This story is part of the November 2023 Ovation. This story is also available in French.