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'Transformative change': Troubled York Region Children's Aid Society names new leader

Ginelle Skerritt will be Ontario's first Black children's aid society CEO
Sept. 27, 2021
Lisa Queen

With more than 30 years of leadership experience in the non-profit sector, Ginelle Skerritt will take over the helm of York Region’s troubled Children’s Aid Society Oct. 12, making her the first Black CEO in the history of children’s aid societies in Ontario.

Her appointment, detailed in a society announcement, comes after the organization’s administration was hit with disturbing accusations.

A third-party report commissioned by the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Service to look into allegations of racism and bullying painted a bleak picture of its senior leadership.

The report, released last November, pointed to a “toxic” work environment that resulted in a “culture of fear.”

Issues of anti-Black racism were “allowed and enabled,” it said.

The report, by Agree Inc., recommended new leadership be put in place quickly.

On its website, the Newmarket-based society said it launched an operational review in July 2020 following allegations of racism, bullying, and harassment by senior management.

“The workplace assessment found that staff had been deeply impacted by a culture that enabled oppressive behaviours, including racism and anti-Black racism,” it said.

“Recommendations from the operational review included the need for a new leadership direction and actions to create a healthy workplace culture.”

The society said it was eager to take the necessary steps to be “the healthy, equitable, and inclusive organization that staff, resource parents, board members, and children, youth, and families need and deserve.”

An operational plan was developed by staff and the board to address 35 recommendations that came out of the operational review, the society’s website said.

“The work plan is the first step toward change, with many projects, change initiatives, planning, and actions required to actualize the needed changes,” it said.

Skerritt most recently held the position of vice-president of vibrant communities and poverty reduction at The Neighbourhood Group in Toronto and is a former regional director at UNICEF Ontario, the society’s announcement said.

She understands the significant role the agency plays in ensuring the wellbeing of children and youth and is an advocate for children’s rights to identity, education, health, spiritual growth and family development, it said.

The society praised Skerritt as a leader with a breadth of experience in addressing issues of child welfare, such as poverty and hunger, loss of identity, lack of emotional support, poor sense of belonging and connection to community.

With a community-centred approach and strong grounding in equity practice, the society said she is eager to take on the challenge of moving the society forward to better serve the region’s diverse community.

Skerrit said she is “looking forward to working with staff, foster parents, volunteers, children, youth and families along with community and community agencies to build on all that is already happening and create our new vision for the future of York Region CAS.”

Board of directors’ chair, Tahir Shafiq, said the society is honoured to have Skerritt as the new CEO.

“Her demonstrated collaborative and inclusive leadership style, combined with her experience and unwavering commitment to equity and justice, will help lead our agency through meaningful, transformative change,” Shafiq said.