Macaulay Child Development Centre

Established in 1932, Macaulay Child Development Centre is a dynamic community agency serving children birth to 18 years, their families and communities. We believe every child deserves a strong start; we are dedicated to eliminating barriers and fostering the skills that enable children to thrive and reach their full potential. Our programs promote healthy development, nurture strong families and effective parenting, provide specialized supports for children with special needs, and collaborate to create inclusive, responsive communities. Macaulay programs are innovative and evidence-informed to reach those facing special barriers or living in high risk situations.

Macaulay Child Development CentreOur Impact Why We Exist

We are a dynamic community agency, working since 1932 to help children thrive within strong families and communities. We reach out to those facing special barriers or living in high risk situations.

Macaulay believes all children should have a strong start and an equal opportunity to succeed. We achieve our mission through a full continuum of programs that a) promote healthy child development; b) nurture strong families and encourage effective parenting; and c) foster the inclusion of children with special needs

As a result of our interventions, children develop the skills the need to succeed; parents are more confident and knowledgeable, and communities are more inclusive. 

Macaulay Child Development Centre has been helping children succeed since 1932Our Story What We Do


The agency’s story mirrors the history of our city. As Toronto continues to grow and diversify, the Macaulay Centre builds on these strengths to meet new needs and challenges.

1932: began as a volunteer-run nursery for low-income children

1945: became a member of United Way (Red Feather)

1980s – 2009: services expanded and diversified to include services for children with special needs, leadership development for high risk youth, after-school homework clubs in high priority neighbourhoods, home-based parent education and support for high-risk and newcomer families, two Ontario Early Years Centres, outreach programs for African Canadian fathers and community collaborations.

2010 - 2014: built further connections with diverse communities to deliver responsive programs that include parenting programs in different languages, parent-child program for parenting teens, special programs for grandparents caring for their grandchildren and father’s health and wellness group.

Awards and Accolades

1982: Margaret Fletcher Award for Innovation.

1992 – 2014: shared our expertise by publishing professional development manuals on family literacy, inclusion of children with special needs, and caregiver training.

2002: appointed lead agency for a Toronto First Duty project, a pilot for creating school-based hubs that support children and families.

2003: selected by the community to operate Ontario Early Years Centres in 2 ridings.

2008-09: celebration of 75th anniversary with 14 neighbourhood–based events.

2009: More than a Haircut Documentary screened at Reel World Film Festival

2009: Vital Idea Award from Toronto Community Foundation

2010: Bhayana Family Foundation Community Partnership Award for More than a Haircut

2012: Fernand Lozier Award of Excellence in Father Involvement Practice from Father Involvement Initiative Ontario Network

2012: Bhayana Family Foundation Team Achievement Award for LGBTQ Inclusion Work Group

2014: selected by Toronto Preschool Speech & Language Services as one of 5 service providers in Toronto

Effective ParentingPprograms; Skills for Success Homework ClubsOur Programs How We Do It

Here we highlight just a few of the many ways that Macaulay, as a multi-service agency, promotes optimal child development. The programs described here enable at-risk children to thrive by enhancing their skills and building stronger families and communities to support healthy child development.

More Than A Haircut partners with neighbourhood barbershops and Black leaders to reach out to fathers and father figures  and promote positive father involvement in the African-Canadian community.

Effective Parenting Programs address barriers that may prevent parents from accessing other programs and supports. A recent demograhic survey tells us that 24% of our families are single parent households and 43% have a family income of less that $30,000 per year.

Skills for Success Homework Clubs partner with youth mentors and schools to provide school-age children in low-income neighbourhoods the opportunity to acquire essential skils to promote success a school and beyond. Parents are offered group sessions that help buid parenting skills

More than a Haircut

Building on the barbershop's natural strength and history as a neighbourhood meeting place, More than a Haircut programs reach out to Black fathers to promote positive father involvement. Current MTAH programs include the folowing:

Barbershop Conversations are lively discussions about parenting issues that have a particular resonance in the Black community. In these facilitated discussions, held at 7 neighbourhood shops, fathers explore culturally appropriate fathering resources and information that lead to increased invovement and positive relationships with their children.

The Barbershop Kidz program creates a child-friendy space in a local school where young children and their fathers come together after school hours to share learning experiences in literacy, math, science and social skills. A community barber is on site to provide free haircuts for children.

Responding to community need, More than a Haircut has offered support services that include a blood pressure screening for older father figures in one barbershop, and children's reading centres in two shops.

Dad's Heartbeat, a workshop series for fathers with barriers to building positive reationships with their children, provides a more in-depth group experience. The series builds on topics explored in Barbershop Conversations, such as self-care, communication skills, play ideas and more. Participants feel part of a community of fathers with similar struggles and goals.   

Program Impact

In a 6 month period, More than a Haircut programs reach over 160 fathers and father figures. The research is conclusive: positive father involvement is strongly correlated with successful academic, economic, and health outcomes. [see Father Involvement Research Alliance].

Here’s what participants are saying:

'It’s nice to be in a space where men can communicate about topics that affect them.' 'It’s really important to bring this kind of program to the community'. 'Keep up the good work! It is important for the youth'.Coming here for 9 years and never heard of this program. This is great. I want to know when the next one is happening.'   

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

gap between rich and poor: A 2014 report from The Alliance for a Poverty-free Toronto and Social Planning Toronto revealed that Toronto is experiencing a “hidden epidemic” of child and family poverty that varies significantly by race and ethnicity:

*People of African, Asian, Middle Eastern, Caribbean, and Latin American backgrounds are much more likely to be living on low incomes. Those of African and Middle Eastern backgrounds are about three times more likely to experience poverty than those of European backgrounds, based on calculations using the After Tax Low-Income Measure (LIM-AT).[47]

Participant Vignette

Jayden went to the same neighbourhood barbershop for years. One Saturday he just happened to be there during a More than a Haircut session. The discussion was about why fathers need to be involved with their children, the importance of  giving positive messages to enhance children's self esteem and cultural identity, and the use of positive discipline methods. He explains, “I was hearing all this wisdom... without going to a class…” He joined the conversation and returned often. Over time, with his openness to learning and natural gifts, he was invited to become a facilitator. According to Jayden, "I used to believe in physical discipline, but with the knowledge I got from the program, I completely changed my approach." He also changed his involvement level with his children. He is now a role model for other Black fathers. He communicates the message of taking responsibility and building a loving relationship with children despite barriers along the road.


Effective Parenting Programs

Effective parenting is the foundation for children’s well-being and long term success. Macaulay provides responsive parenting programs by eliminating barriers and successfully reaching out to marginalized and high need populations.

One program example is Dad’s Heartbeat, a workshop series for fathers with barriers to building a positive relationship with their children (described above).  

Additionally, our multilingual Family Home Visiting program reaches out to parents who are isolated and high risk, bringing one-to-one connection, support and information to help build the parent child relationship and community belonging. The Program Supervisor explains, "Our staff establish a strong, supportive relationship with families at a time when the parents are really struggling. They see families through to success after success. It is inspiring to see our families work so hard to reach their goals".

In 2015/16, other examples include programs for caregiving grandparents, parents of children with special needs, children on wait lists for speech and language therapy, and pregnant and parenting teens. “This program gave us things to do with our grandchildren that we didn’t do before, like singing, dancing, and reading together, even cooking together. I learned how to turn preparing real food into a playful learning experience”. (Participant in Nona and Me grandparents' program).

Bounce Back and Thrive, a resilience training program for parents was offered and provided parents with effective strategies to manage emotions and de-escalate stressful parenting situations. “Before, I would react without thinking. Now I analyze the situation – why is my child behaving this way?” [BBT participant] An innovative Parent Advocacy Program was introduced, bringing parents together to learn how to navigate services and be an effective voice for their children. With advocacy skills and knowledge, program participants have accessed dental, health and recreational services, housing repairs and stronger income supports, all of which mitigate the effects of poverty.

Toronto Vital Signs addressed by programs:

Demographics: Vital Signs 2015: In 2011, 51% of Toronto residents were born outside of Canada, and one in 12 had arrived in the country in the previous five years. One-third of the total population of immigrants in Toronto had arrived in Canada within the previous 10 years. Toronto has more than twice the proportion of recent immigrants as Canada (8.4% compared to 3.5% nationally). Macaulay 2015 survey found that 65% of Macaulay families were born outside Toronto. learning The universally accessible programs, services, and resources—such as Ontario Early Years Centres, Child Care/Family Resource Centres, and Parenting and Family Literacy Centres—are meant to build on FDK. However, only 27% of schools in Toronto report having family support programs, 13 percentage points below the provincial average

Skills for Success: Homework Clubs

Skills for Success partners with schools in high needs neighbourhoods including Weston Mount Dennis, Rexdale and Keelesdale, to offer children safe, supervised after-school programs. Local youth volunteer in programs and serve as positive role models and mentors. Many of the children are from newcomer families and some are referred by teachers because of an identified need for academic or social support.

Skills for Success offers:

• space and time for homework, with staff support

• anti-bullying and problem-solving skill-building

• active outdoor play with staff facilitation as needed

• activities to promote social skills and self-awareness

• meaningful interactions with youth mentors who act as positive role models

• nutritious, substantial snacks and meals

A parent group component was added in 2015, when many parents of children in the Homework Clubs expressed that they felt overwhelmed by stress, unsure how to deal with their children’ s behaviour, and worried about their children’s homework and school performance. Offered in 3 locations, session topics include managing challenging behaviour, providing homework support and practising communication skills that promote self-esteem and anti-bullying. Each session begins with a nutritious meal, and includes a separate children’s program. The program continues to evolve, with sessions focussing on nutrition, meal preparation and budgeting.

Program Impact

Each year, over 120 children participate in Skills for Success programs in four different locations- all high need or high priority neighbourhoods. Research tells us:  Kids in after school programs show increased self-esteem, improved social skills and are better able to form positive social attachments. (UofT Faculty of Social Work Data, 2013).

Our own evaluation data, based on responses from children, parents and staff, confirm:

84% of parents reported an improvement in their child’s homework completion

100% of Homework Club staff reported that most or all children increased their social skills during the program and 95% of parents also reported that their child’s social skills improved.

Over 90% of staff and parents observe the children in the Homework Club are physically active.

92% of parents report that their child is more physically active because of the Homework Club.

80% of children reported that physical activities at program make them feel better.

96% of parents tell us that their child knows more about nutrition and healthy life choices through the Homework Club. Staff reported the same.

Here’s what parents and children say about the program:

'[My daughter] has time to do homework and she receives help for homework, she has time to be active with friends, she becomes more sociable.'

'[The staff] help [my child] with good choices and they bring out the best in her and enhance her leadership skills; she is very helpful with other children in the program.'

'I have improved on my school work, I started to like more vegetables and fruits; I learn more things like anti-bullying'.

'It is important that the teachers are very nice and I have time to play with friends; I also like that I have extra time to do my homework.'

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

gap between rich and poor : Household food insecurity and diet-related illness disproportionately affect the poor and have enormous social, economic, environmental, and health-related costs.

To afford just the basics in Toronto in 2013, each parent in the hypothetical four-person family needed to earn $18.52 per hour (working 37.5 hours per week). o Youth are already in trouble: Toronto’s youth unemployment rate for 2014 was almost 22%,[22] significantly higher than the national rate (of about 14%[23]).

• The report offers a blueprint for action based on three goals:

* ensuring young people have the opportunities they need to build a good future,

* promoting jobs as a pathway to stability and security, and

* removing barriers to opportunity based on background and circumstances.

learning: Toronto’s schools have an improving teacher/student ratio, but special education students are not always receiving the supports they need. Both the availability and affordability of childcare in Toronto are challenges.

The Toronto District School Board’s five-year graduation rate was 80% in 2014 (down from 83% in 2013). The implementation of FDK has also been challenging for elementary teachers. Teachers are reporting that more distracted classrooms, caused by larger class sizes, are affecting their ability to teach

• Of Toronto’s publicly funded elementary schools,

* 43% have before- and after-school programs for both kindergarten and middle childhood children,

* 27% have before- and after-school programs for only kindergarten or only middle childhood children, and

* 30% have no before- and after-school programs at all. [51]

The fundraising ability of some communities means that some schools are able to fund things like school trips and improvements to libraries and playgrounds, freeing up the funds received from the Province for more basic educational needs. Students from neighbourhoods comprised of families without the financial base, skillset or time for fundraising, on the other hand, face a more stark educational experience.

leadership: Torontonians overall, and youth ages 12-19 continue to feel a strong sense of belonging to their community, but only half of young adults feel the same. Research shows a high correlation of sense of community belonging with physical and mental health.

Program Partners (for all programs)

York Eglinton BIA

Barbershops (Barbers of Eglinton, MTAH Inc, Pure Vibes Barbers, Onyx Barbers HommespaFemme, B&M Hair Studio, Elegance Hair Studio)

• Ujima House/Young Potential Fathers

• TDSB and TCDSB community schools

• Humberwood Public Library

• Toronto Parks and Recreation (Humberwood) • Toronto Fire Services (Fire Prevention Department)

• Unison Community Health Centre

Toronto Public Health

• Toronto Public Library

What You Can Do

More than a Haircut/Effective Parenting Programs

$50 provides books for a reading centre in one barbershop

$75 provides one home visit to a high risk parent to learn about child development and community supports

$300 provides one parenting education class for 10 parents in a high priority neighbourhood.

$500 covers the costs of planning, promoting and carrying out one barbershop session.

Skills for Success: Homework Clubs

$25 fills a backpack with school supplies for one student from a low income neighbourhood.

$75 supports one student to attend the Homework Club for 2 weeks.

$300 feeds 20 students a nutritious snack at one Homework Club for one month.

$300 provides one parenting session for 10 parents of participating children. 


Sharon Filger
Executive Director
416.789.7441 x224
Charitable Number: 108087586RR0001

Finance & Governance


Join the Conversation