Lasting support for complex kids

The Winnipeg Foundation


The Leacock Estate will be the second phase of the Complex Needs and Mental Health Service.

For the most vulnerable young women in the child welfare system, life is wracked with instability and a lack of support. Marymound’s new Complex Needs and Mental Health Service is looking to change that by never completely discharging clients.

“If we just have a short-term stabilization and assessment and send them back to community, they’re at risk of returning to their previous lifestyles,” explains Mardy Yager, Manager of Fund Development with Marymound. “Our kids are way too complex. Their family dynamics, if they have family involved, are way too complex… There has to be that continuity of care and that’s why we’ve developed this whole approach.”

Marymound supports 3,000 children and youth annually with a variety of programming including living arrangements, educational supports and clinical and therapeutic services. Programs use a holistic approach that include meeting the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual needs of young people in care.

Complex Needs and Mental Health Service (CNMHS) will target the 50 to 100 teenage girls in the system who consume a disproportionately high number of public services.

“[These kids are] involved with police, they’re involved with justice, they’re involved with hospitals, the emergency rooms,” Mr. Yager says.

The CNMHS, located at Marymound’s main Scotia Street campus, has three phases.

The first is a secured six-bed stabilization and assessment unit, which opened September 2015. Specialized staff including psychiatric nurses, psychologists, behavioural specialists, youth care practitioners and occupational therapists are on every shift to work with the young women. Staff is trained to see each girl’s strengths.

“These girls have engaged in high risk behaviours, they’ve been victimized, they’ve been exploited, maybe there have been suicide attempts,” explains Marymound’s CEO Jay Rodgers. “But here they are, they’re alive and they’re in our program. So they have resilience.”

The second phase of the CNMHS – an on-site graduated care home – will ensure youth remain connected to the stabilization teams they worked with in phase one.

“The trust and the relationships that have been built will stay in place as they go through the transition process,” Mr. Rodgers says.

This 10-bed graduated care home will be housed in the historic Leacock Estate. It is expected the average stay will be 12-18 months long, after which the young women can be discharged back into the community. The girls will never lose contact with their supportive staff, however, making phase three of the program vitally important.

“We’re going to be an integral part of transitioning them into adulthood at age 18,” Mr. Rodgers says. “There’s a wealth of info that says unless you continue to support these young people at age 18, they often end up homeless, in jail, on EIA, or missing.”

Marymound already has many services on site that will be available to the young women in the CNMHS, including education support, opportunities for work experience, and recreational and cultural programming.

Up to 85 per cent of clients are First Nations, so Marymound incorporates Indigenous teachings in all that it does.

“A lot of our kids are still reacting to the impacts of the intergenerational abuse that occurred through the residential schools,” Mr. Yager says. “They were disconnected from their culture… In order to move forward you’ve got to know where you came from so we work really hard to provide anything and everything these kids need to help them on their journey.”

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The Leacock Estate renovation project

The Leacock Estate is a heritage mansion built in 1882 by E.P. Leacock. Until 2015 it was the residence of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, who founded Marymound. The Sisters were recently called back to Toronto after serving in Winnipeg for more than 100 years.

Marymound has launched a $5 million capital campaign to extensively renovate the Leacock Estate. It is engaging the Indigenous community in the capital campaign and renovation to ensure the facility incorporates traditional teachings. For example, there will be a round room where clients can do smudges and hold ceremonies.

The Foundation is supporting phase two of the Complex Needs and Mental Health Service – the renovation of the Leacock Estate – with a $500,000 grant, drawn from the Moffatt Family Fund.