System Services

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On behalf of the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, Skylark has been charged with creating programs to coordinate children’s services in Toronto. In delivering the System Services as outlined below, we’re a trusted partner working closely with community planners and agencies as well as government funders to advocate on behalf of  families and plan for better, more accessible services.

Whether it’s managing substantial budgets on behalf of the Ministry, maintaining data bases, allocating resources, advocating for children, youth and families or helping to identify and solve problems and systems gaps through innovation and collaboration, we’re committed to improving systems and building capacity wherever possible and to the highest-quality of service delivery.

Complex Special Needs

When children and youth have special needs so complex that their families cannot manage, Skylark’s Special Needs Team is here to help.

For children, youth and their families living with developmental disabilities and/or complex special needs, Skylark acts as the single point of entry into residential services and residential case management in the Greater Toronto Area. We work closely with community planners and government funders to advocate on behalf of complex special needs families to plan for better, more accessible services.

We currently administer on behalf of government a budget in excess of $27 million that flows through to other agencies and community partners. To demonstrate our accountability in stewarding our substantial government funding, we recently engaged Success Markets Inc. (SMI) to conduct a Social Return on Investment (SROI). Click here to see a summary of the findings relative to the Special Needs Team and how the benefits to our clients and their families, government and society as a whole outweighs the investment.

The Skylark Special Needs Team works with families of children with complex developmental disabilities. These highly specialized, knowledgeable and creative problem solvers work tirelessly to find suitable, sustainable supports and services that make it possible to stabilize these children, and for them and their families, to have a better quality of life.

Working in close partnership with more than 100 community agencies, we are the only agency in the GTA to provide this intensive, comprehensive, specifically tailored support.

As a single parent of a child with disabilities, it is easy to fall into a downward spiral of hopelessness. How can I afford more help? Who can help me plan for the future? Will I ever have some semblance of a normal life? It is sometimes hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel. The Skylark (Delisle) Special Needs Team has been that welcome light. They provided us with a dedicated social worker, respite relief funding, and counselling around short and long term planning. Thanks to their support, my family can now function with considerably less stress and fatigue. Skylark (Delisle) has been a lifeline.

– Lucinda, Mother of a Special Needs Child

How we work

Our primary goal is to find solutions that keep children and youth at home with their families. When this is not viable we act as a single point of access for residential care that will allow our clients to enjoy the highest possible quality of life.

Special needs children are children and youth with a developmental disability which limits their cognitive function and activities of daily living (ADLs), and who also have at least one other complex condition.

Our first step is to do a thorough assessment to determine eligibility. If the client meets eligibility criteria, an individualized and person-directed plan is developed in collaboration with the family and community partners.

The Special Needs Team takes referrals from community case managers, family service agencies, and Child Welfare.

Click here for additional resources for parents and caregivers of young persons with special needs

Youth male with special needs - System Services and Caregiver

Centralized Access to Residential Services (C.A.R.S.)

Skylark operates Centralized Access to Residential Services (C.A.R.S.) program on behalf of the Toronto office of the Ministry of Children and Youth Services. C.A.R.S. provides a single point of entry for residential placement, eliminating the need for parents and case manages to call multiple residences to find openings.

Our database contains up-to-date data for every mental health residential program in Toronto, making it easier to match a child’s needs with the appropriate facility.

C.A.R.S. provides a variety of important services:

  • Managing referrals to all mental health residential beds for children and youth in Toronto
  • Matching individual requests for residential treatment with the most appropriate providers
  • Monitoring response times and confirming admissions
  • Tracking clients in placement
  • Recording discharges
  • Monitoring available resources
  • Providing accurate overall system-based information for residential services

Every year C.A.R.S. processes referrals for 400-500 clients aged 6 to 18, making approximately 1,300 requests for residential placement, typically leading to actual placement for about 200 clients.

Professionals (only) working with a youth or family can call C.A.R.S. at 416-482-7884 to make a referral to residential services.

Residential Placement Advisory Committee Toronto (R.P.A.C.)

Skylark Children, Youth and Families operates the Residential Placement Advisory Committee Toronto (R.P.A.C.) on behalf of the Ministry of Children and Youth Services. R.P.A.C. is a mandated service under the Child and Family Services Act, designed to ensure that all clients in residential care are being well served.

Reviews occur routinely for each child and youth who move into a residential program licensed for ten or more individuals when the placement is intended to last 90 days or more.

It is also the right of each child and youth or anyone acting on their behalf to request a review of their current or proposed placement if there are concerns about the appropriateness of the placement  meeting the child’s needs and circumstances. This type of review can be requested regardless of the type or size of residential placement.

For Youth

Click here to learn more about R.P.A.C. through our youth-friendly info card.

For Parents

Click here learn more about R.P.A.C.

For Residential Service Providers 

Click here to learn about R.P.A.C.

Click here to access the notice of the admission.

Click here to access the discharge form.

Click here to access the RPAC Youth Friendly Poster.

Children’s Services System Review & Consultation (C.S.S.R.C.)

The Children’s Service System Review and Consultation (C.S.S.R.C.) forum exists to provide an arena where professionals may present cases for consultation and as a forum to address children’s service system needs and gaps. Through the consultation process, collaborative models of service are explored ­– models that strengthen service interconnectivity to respond to the evolving needs and strengths of the most complex and challenging children, youth and their families.

And, it is through the experience of developing recommendations concerning individual children and youth that system capacity is developed, as trends are analyzed and expertise is applied.

Young Parents No Fixed Address (Y.P.N.F.A.)

Young Parents No Fixed Address (Y.P.N.F.A.) is a network of over 30 Toronto agencies and organizations dedicated, for the past 19 years, to building strong community partnerships to address the challenges faced by young homeless/street involved, pregnant and parenting youth & their children.

Young Parents No Fixed Address started in 1997, to examine the increasing numbers of pregnant young women being seen by the agencies dealing with homeless youth in Toronto. It was born out of a tragedy – the death of ‘Baby Jordan’ to a homeless young mother. The subsequent inquest into the starvation death of her 5-week old baby made a number of recommendations, which Y.P.N.F.A. has been working to see implemented.

Skylark provides a coordinator for Y.P.N.F.A.  Additionally, in partnership with Y.P.N.F.A., Skylark Children, Youth and Families has received funding to provide Wraparound Services to homeless young mothers. This model addresses the complex needs of these young families including their needs for housing and safety.


Young people who are homeless or street involved and facing pregnancy and parenting are often dealing with many complex issues. The Wraparound process helps youth and families in crisis to identify and utilize a highly individualized network of support (families, friends, community and professionals). Skylark (Oolagen) pioneered this approach for Y.P.N.F.A.

For your reference:

Wraparound Process with Young Homeless Parents
 Published in The Newsletter of Infant Mental Health Promotion –IMPrint, Volume 49, Fall 2007

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