Family & Children's Services: From six to 60

Family & Children's Services in Guelph Ontario is changing lives with the amazing Finding Permanency program:

Danny was used to feeling the hit of profound loneliness at regular intervals throughout the year, and most keenly at Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Not to mention his birthday.

As a 14-year-old Crown ward in care since he was a toddler, Danny has spent too many of those special occasions alone or with staff members he knows are paid to be there.

"It kind of feels like I'm nothing to nobody anyway and then Thanksgiving or whatever comes and just kind of proves that."

That nothing-to-nobody feeling churning in Danny worried Amy Gowing, Family Finder and Permanency Lead at Family & Children's Services. She could see that emotions like affection, joy and hope often only served to irritate him.

"When I asked him to fill out the five things he most needed Danny scrawled 'NOTHING' across all five blank spaces."

Amy started with only six names when she set out to search for Danny's extended family connections. One of those potential connections was Arthur, Danny's father.

It had been years since anyone on file had heard from Arthur. Some people believed he was dead. Amy decided to take a long shot. Knowing he was originally from a small island in the Caribbean, Amy began searching for him there.

After contacting several Caribbean agencies she finally hit the jackpot. A municipal official told Amy Danny's dad was not only alive but very well.

Arthur was a troubled soul when left he Canada and returned to his Caribbean home. His family, a respected clan on their island home, reclaimed and embraced him. Over time he became a valued member of his community.

 When Amy contacted Arthur he impressed upon her that he was a changed man and he very much wanted to have a relationship with Danny. He also helped Amy locate Danny's half-siblings — two adult sisters and a brother. One of Danny's half-sisters, Claire, lives near Danny with her young family.

 But finding Danny's father and discovering local family connections was only part of the jackpot.

 Amy's work with the Finding Permanency project increased Danny's family connections from six to over 60, including more than 30 extended family members in the Caribbean. Family members Danny has now met over two visits to the island. People who not only resemble and share a family history with Danny, but also have a genuine interest in him.

 That's a lot to be thankful for. And this Thanksgiving? Danny will be spending the holiday weekend, and sharing that thanks, with his new-found half-sister Claire and her children.