Family Service Toronto

FST strengthens individuals, families and communities through counselling, education, social action, advocacy and community development and works with partners to build a vibrant community social services sector.

Our Impact Why We Exist

Family Service Toronto (FST) helps people face a wide variety of life challenges. In 2014 we celebrated 100 years of work with families and individuals through counselling, community development, advocacy and public education programs. Our services are available to everyone who lives or works in Toronto.

Vision Family Service Toronto envisions a city where:

  • people live with dignity in thriving neighbourhoods and inclusive communities which are free of violence
  • public policy is grounded in social and economic justice
  • programs and services are accessible to all, especially to those who face barriers
  • individuals and families navigate life challenges successfully and enjoy effective personal relationships
  • people are able to realize their potential.


Family Service Toronto collaborates with individuals, families and communities to create lasting, measurable improvements in their health and well-being. We achieve this through counselling, education, social action, advocacy, community development and working with partners to advance a vibrant community services sector.

Our Values

We are committed to:

  • grounding our work in the lived experience of clients and the community
  • celebrating diversity, pursuing equity and practising inclusion
  • excellence.

Definition of Family

Our name begins with “family” and we understand it to mean: Two or more people, whether living together or apart, related by blood, marriage, adoption or commitment to care for one another.

Our Strategic Directions

All our programs and services aim to:

  • Enhance accessibility and responsiveness.
  • Implement new strategies to address family violence.
  • Foster healthy, vibrant tower communities.
  • Develop new ways to fund programs and services.
  • Advance a resilient community services sector.
  • Generate community impact.

Our Story What We Do

History of Organization

Family Service Toronto (FST) started as the Neighbourhood Workers Association (NWA) in 1914 when a group of volunteers came together to address the growing levels of poverty faced by many families in the city. In 1962, NWA changed its name to "Family Service Association of Metropolitan Toronto" and in 2008 to Family Service Toronto.

Originally, NWA served as an umbrella organization, bringing together churches and other charitable organizations to coordinate the provision of relief to families in need. The association was instrumental in organizing relief during the influenza epidemic in 1918 and the Great Depression during the 1930s. NWA's constitution charged the agency with the responsibility to acquire “information regarding the social needs of the community” and promote “the means to meet those needs.”

Today, with a history of over 100 years of service, FST provides more counselling and community building services than relief, but we are still here for Toronto's most vulnerable citizens. While our organizational structure and nature of our work has evolved over time, our core values haven't.

Accolades and Accomplishments

Family Service Toronto is accredited by the Council on Accreditation (COA). Accreditation is an independent process that service organizations and agencies use to evaluate and improve the quality of care and services. It is an opportunity to be evaluated against national standards of excellence and to identify opportunities for improvement.

Accreditation provides FST with an opportunity to showcase its extraordinary achievements as one of the city’s largest service agencies working to assist individuals experiencing various life challenges.

FST is a past recipient of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council Immigrant Success Award, recognizing its recruitment practices that have resulted in FST hiring many skilled immigrants.


Our Programs How We Do It

Family Service Toronto offers a whole range of counselling services and community programs to support families and individuals experiencing temporary challenges or needing on-going support in their lives. Our programs include:

  • Counselling (including Walk-in Counselling)
  • Connecting Families - parenting education program
  • David Kelley Services
  • Families in Transition
  • Growing Up Healthy Downtown
  • Healthy Families. Healthy Communities
  • Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse
  • Options
  • Partner Assault Response
  • Partner Contact
  • Passport
  • Pat’s Place
  • Person Directed Planning
  • Seniors and Caregivers
  • Seniors Community Connections
  • Social Action and Community Building
  • Substance Abuse Professional Services
  • Violence Against Women

Family Service Toronto is also part of Campaign 2000 - a national coalition of 120 organizations dedicated to creating awareness and building support to end child and family poverty in Canada. Campaign 2000 partners believe that the federal government has a responsibility to honour the 1989 all-party House of Commons resolution to end child poverty by, now long past, year 2000.

Social Action and Community Development (SACD)

SACD unit of Family Service Toronto supports marginalized communities and neighbourhoods to make sustainable social changes and increase inclusion.

We are facilitators who support communities and neighbourhoods in dynamic processes of civic engagement and meaningful participation to effect sustainable social change and inclusion. We work from within an anti-oppression framework. We value the exchange of knowledge and embrace opportunities for learning and capacity building – for others and for ourselves. We do this by focusing on issues identified by communities through open dialogue using a range of tools and approaches.

Our team does not provide one-on-one services. Instead marginalized community groups seek our support to help them meet identified or emerging needs.

Some issues marginalized communities have utilized our support to deal with:

  • Achieving their short- and long-term goals
  • Strengthening organizations
  • Health promotion
  • Community economic development
  • Supporting the development of leaders
  • Building strong, successful partnerships within and outside the community
  • Research on a variety of community issues
  • Civic engagement on issues identified by neighbourhoods
Funding and Program Partners

United Way Toronto & York Region and City of Toronto

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

"The median family income of low-income families ($14,930 before taxes in 2013) doesn’t come close to supporting a household. The rising cost of nutritious food is out of reach of these households—2014 saw a significant increase in the monthly cost of a nutritious food basket for a family of four. In Toronto’s inner suburbs visits to food banks have increased 45% since 2008."


Seniors and Caregivers Support Services

The Seniors and Caregivers Support Service Unit at Family Service Toronto provides social work services to older people and caregivers. Our work includes counselling, group work, advocacy, training and educational sessions on a variety of topics such as aging and memory loss, anger and guilt, how to access community resources, abuse of older adults, etc.

We help older adults with:

  • Dealing with an abusive relationship
  • Learning to cope with difficult medical conditions like Alzheimer's Disease, stroke and depression
  • Learning to live with change and loss
  • Accessing community support services such as day programs and meals-on-wheels
  • Speaking out and making an impact on issues that affect your quality of life

We also provide counselling services for those facing issues such as:

  • Elder abuse
  • Dealing with chronic or degenerative illness
  • Stress in family relationships
  • Bereavement
  • The uprootedness and difficulty of adapting to a new culture at an advanced age
  • Caregiver stress

We also operate Pat’s Place – Ontario’s first safe haven for older adults experiencing abuse.

Funding and Program Partners

Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network and United Way Toronto & York Region.

Program Impact

Decreasing abuse, increased ability to live at home in a safe and dignified manner

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

"Toronto’s population continues to age. Seniors represent almost 15% of the city’s residents, and it has been projected that the GTA will absorb more than half the provincial increase in the over-75 population between 2011 and 2016."

Participant Vignette

"Before Pat’s Place, my experience was very frightening. I had no privacy, I couldn’t lock the door, couldn’t sleep at night… He would tell me to be open minded… I could not move to another place as I could not pay the rent anywhere.

When I met with Pat’s Place staff and told my story, they organized everything and I never looked back. Now I look forward to every day.

At Pat’s Place I could lock my door, have a shower, rest – it was so safe. During my first days there, I just slept and slept until I felt much better. It was the only place where I could relax. Lovely, safe, comfortable. This place gives you a home when you need it the most. For two months, everything was taken care of – furniture, basic necessities – and Pat’s Place staff would check on me at least once a week or whenever I needed to speak with somebody. I did a lot of thinking while there. Heaven on earth!"

A former Pat’s Place resident whose landlord and employer became abusive towards her. After two months at Pat’s Place, she received help to find alternate housing.

Violence Against Women

Violence Against Women program offers confidential services to over 1000 women seeking help. We provide support, information about community resources and advice on how to be safe, over the phone or in person. On the website we have a free on-line quiz – Early Warning Signs - for anyone wishing to assess the quality of their relationship.

In addition to one-on-one counselling, many women attend support groups, wellness retreats and educational workshops. We also have one-on-one and group counselling for children who have witnessed abuse.  Our services are available in a variety of languages, to women of diverse backgrounds, or with special needs, living or working in Toronto.

Through our program women will learn:

  • that they are not alone and that there are options available to them 
  • what abuse is and why it happens 
  • to build on personal strengths and increase self-esteem 
  • to plan for the future and learn new coping skills 
  • to be safe 
  • to restore a sense of control and hope in their life
Funding and Program Partners
  • Ministry of Community and Social Services and United Way Toronto
Program Impact
  • Increased safety of women
  • Increased self esteem
  • Increased control over one’s life
Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

"A sense of security and safety affects the quality of life in Toronto."

What You Can Do

Social Action and Community Development

Activities a donation will support

  • Strengthening organizations
  • Health promotion
  • Community economic development
  • Supporting the development of leaders
  • Building strong, successful partnerships within and outside the community

Seniors and Caregivers Support Services

Activities a donation will support

Outreach and counselling supports to seniors experiencing abuse.

Violence Against Women

Activities a donation will support

Counselling and assistance to women who have been victims of violence.


Brian Porter
Director of Marketing and Communications
416.595.9230 x225
Charitable Number: 107376063RR0001

Finance & Governance


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