Our Profession


From wards to homes

Quietly, John Brown had, early on, led the way to the community for the children's treatment field. In 1966, with the takeover of Warrendale, Thistle-town too began to experience the positive changes in treatment milieu wrought by the location of the service in 'an ordinary home on an ordinary street'. Up until that time most, but not all children's services had been located in a moderately large, hospital or school-like building which featured large halls, high ceilings, cement block walls and tile floors. Now, as new treatment services were being funded, they too were located in 'ordinary homes'. In 1967, Thistletown began a plan which was realized in 1972; the construction of ten houses at its main location and the transfer of the locus of treatment from the wards of the old sanatorium to these new houses. Meanwhile, and now, not so quietly, John Brown, often in defiance of local zoning regulations, moved children into various communities around the province in Ontario, until in 1973, in a precedent setting judgment, Mr. Justice Lacourciere of the Court of Appeal in Barrie decided that a 'treatment home' was more like an ordinary family home than an institution and therefore could legally be located in a community.

Across the province, in treatment centres with varying philosophies, there were dramatic, and almost overnight changes which accompanied the movement from wards to homes. For child care workers, these changes included: the opportunity to effectively be able to set up and use a 'therapeutic milieu' in the treatment process; the elimination of massive contagion at meal and play times; a heightening in the level of expectations offered the youth; an increase in the amount of responsibility given to both them and the youth; a decrease in emphasis on techniques for controlling surface behavior and on maintaining control; and a development of a deep appreciation for the degree to which an 'ordinary' living situation can be, in itself, healing to the disturbed child who previously may not have had the opportunity to experience safety and structure, relationships and developmental challenge.