Two courageous women receive award for taking a stand against child abuse and neglect in Toronto

(TORONTO, ON)  Minister of Children and Youth Services, Tracy MacCharles honoured two courageous women for taking a stand against child abuse and neglect at the 15th  Annual Stand Up for Kids Awards presented today at Queen’s Park.  Click here to watch the video

Sponsored by Toronto’s four Children’s Aid Societies—Jewish Family & Child, Native Child and Family Services of Toronto, the Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto and the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto—the awards mark the end of Child Abuse Prevention Month by recognizing individuals who have taken direct and positive action to protect children from abuse and neglect.

Child abuse and neglect are tragedies inflicted on innocent children and youth across all socio-economic boundaries.  In fact, over the past year Toronto’s four Children’s Aid Societies investigated more than 10,000 inquiries related to child welfare. These children and youth need heroes who are willing to take notice and take action. 

Awards were presented to two local heroes: 
Cindy Stirling provides a safe haven for abused and neglected children and youth who can no longer remain safely in their homes.  As a foster parent for more than 27 years—the last six with the Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto—she and her husband Ross offer a safe, secure and loving home to some of the most vulnerable members of our society.  

A tireless advocate for the children and youth in her care, Ms. Stirling consistently works to ensure they receive the resources they need to heal from the trauma they have endured.  Ms. Stirling demonstrated her commitment and compassion, going above and beyond to support a youth in her care who was diagnosed with bone cancer in 2013. She remained by the youth’s side throughout her illness until her untimely passing 2015—even quitting her job to provide loving care and support.  

“Cindy Stirling is the embodiment of what it means to be a hero who stands up for kids,” says Janice Robinson, Executive Director, Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto.  ”When a teen in her care was battling cancer, she quit her part-time job to help her every step of the way. Through doctors’ appointments and hospital stays, Cindy was by her side.  She created a bridge with the young woman’s birth family, keeping them informed and welcoming them into her home to spend quality time with their daughter,” she added. 

Cassandra Churm is a Toronto Public Health nurse who works with the High Risk Infant Team (HRIT) at Native Child and Family Services of Toronto.  As a member of the team, Ms. Churm supports families in Toronto’s aboriginal community who are expecting a new baby or have a child in the home under the age of two.  

Ms. Churm meets with women and their partners in their homes or in hospital, providing pre-and post-natal support and advocacy to equip them to provide optimal care to their newborn. She also serves as a vital link between Family Service Workers on the HRIT to prevent abuse and neglect by ensuring that babies develop in a healthy environment, and making appropriate referrals when a child is in need of protection.  Ms. Churm often sacrifices her evenings and weekends to be available to the HRIT and to the families she serves.  

In 2015, Ms. Churm worked with an expectant couple whose four children had previously been taken into the care of Native Child and Family Services.  She provided prenatal care and parenting skills to prepare the couple for the birth of their new baby and reunification with their children.  She continued to visit the family on a weekly basis to ensure they had the support they needed to provide a safe and secure home to all of their children. 

“Cassandra Churm is a woman who captures the Aboriginal essence and spirit of Native teachings.  She is genuinely loved by coworkers and clients alike,” says Kenn Richard, Executive Director, Native Child and Family Services of Toronto. “Cassandra acts as a catalyst for change in all that she does, goes beyond the normal expectations of her job and advocates persuasively and effectively on behalf of the best interests of our children.”