2023 Award Recipients

Congratulations to all of our 2023 Award Recipients!

OMSSA is pleased to announce our slate of 2023 Award Recipients. This impressive group of individuals and teams will be recognized at our upcoming 2023 Policy Conference and 2024 Exchange Conference in Toronto.

OMSSA would also like to thank award nominators for submitting nominations on their colleagues for recognition, and our Awards Committee for their selection of our 2023 slate of award recipients. Learn more about the outstanding individuals and teams we will recognize below:

Champion of Human Services Award: David Thomas

Patti Moore Human Services Integration Award: Fern Dominelli & Laura LePine

Lifetime Achievement Award: Douglas Bartholomew-Saunders

Local Municipal Champion Awards:

  • City of Brantford Build Belonging: Inclusive EarlyON Programming
  • City of Ottawa Catherine Street Community Service Hub
  • City of Windsor Asylum Claimant Team
  • County of Simcoe Local Immigration Partnership Ukrainian Response
  • Region of Durham Adult Protective Services: Innovative Partnerships and Housing Stability
  • Niagara Region Indigenous-led RECE Training Program
  • Better Together 2023

2024 Awards

Stay tuned for information about nominations for OMSSA's 2024 Awards. You can learn more about our awards program here on our website

Champion of Human Services

David Thomas 

OMSSA's Champion of Human Services Award recognizes a champion who has displayed extraordinary leadership and made an exceptional contribution to human services. Our Champion of Human Services Award recipient will be recognized at our 2024 Exchange Conference.

David Thomas has been involved in policy development and training for over 30 years. 

Many of you know David from past years employed by OMSSA as a Lead Trainer in their Social Assistance Training, commencing from 1994, and in more recent years as a Lead Trainer for the SAIL Curriculum, and currently with Ontario Works (OW) Directive Training and Life Stabilization. 

David is involved with various leadership initiatives providing skills and competencies designed to improve service quality, build organizational capacity, enhance service system management, and further service integration. David’s role in supporting integration includes managing multiple projects related to implementation and delivery of streamlined services for clients and staff alike. 

David dedicated his career to training and policy advice, his networking with members has continued to build superior working relationships, including several speaking engagements at past OMSSA conferences, most recently on Life Stabilization at the 2023 OMSSA Exchange Conference. David is also working with OMSSA Staff on the development and framework for the OMSSA Municipal Human Services Certificate Program. 

His work currently with Human Services Integration includes infusing the business process and project management roles into current OMSSA Education curriculum and promoting integrated OW case management practices amongst the various OMSSA Professional Development Workshops.

David has a Life Skills Certificate in True Colours – Personality Dimensions and engages staff to promote diversity in skills acquisition that can be shared to benefit organizational achievement through common and distinct individual or corporate goals that increase capacity and relationship building in the future. His contracts include multiple projects for OMSSA, in the business sector with a large communications corporation, and non-profits that encourage employees to take ownership of their performance and development plans.

In the past David worked several years as a Caseworker and Employment Supervisor throughout the 1980s, and as a Senior Manager in Employment Services throughout the 1990s with York Region. 

He has most recently completed a course towards his Master of Education through Athabasca University with only one course left before graduation. David will tell you that learning is life-long as demonstrated by his career and commitment to working with others. 

Patti Moore Human Services Integration Award

OMSSA's Patti Moore Human Services Integration Award recognizes an OMSSA member who has displayed extraordinary leadership and made an exceptional contribution to human services. Our Patti Moore Human Services Integration Award recipients will be recognized at our 2023 Policy Conference.

Fern Dominelli

Fern Dominelli is currently the Executive Director for the Northern Ontario Service Deliverers Association. He retired as CAO of the Manitoulin-Sudbury District Services Board (DSB) in August 2022. Fern started with the Manitoulin-Sudbury DSB as a Program Manager in August 2000 and then became Chief Administrative Officer in 2009. Prior to his work with the Manitoulin-Sudbury DSB, he was with the Ministry of Community & Social Services for 18 years.

When he first began his work with the Ministry, Fern was a front-line Income Maintenance Officer in Sudbury. In 1986 he accepted the position of Program Review Officer and became involved in many special projects and working groups through these years, as well as doing a great deal of travelling across the province assisting with program and operational reviews. As CAO with Manitoulin-Sudbury DSB he participated and chaired several provincial committees. One of Fern’s top priorities over the years was implementing Human Services Integration within the Manitoulin-Sudbury District Services Board. The goal was to provide staff with enough information and training that they can provide the people we served with the right information and resources while only having to tell their storey once.

Fern was previously a member of the OMSSA Board, chairing the OMSSA’s Professional Development Committee.

Laura LePine

Laura LePine is the current Director of Community Services with the County of Renfrew. With over 25 years working in community/social services at the County of Renfrew, Laura has seen the many changes, challenges and opportunities that exist in community and social services. From Employment Services Caseworker, to Coordinator of Operations, Local System Support (LSS), Case Presenting Officer (CPO) for the Social Benefits Tribunal to Manager and then Director, Laura has been involved in social services from the bottom up. From 2010 to 2013, she was seconded by MCSS as the Local Change and Implementation Coordinator for the Social Services Solutions Modernization Project (SSSMP), Eastern Region. This role was to represent Eastern Ontario on the business, technical, change management, and data conversion teams and act as the link between MCSS and service delivery agents to successfully implement the complex new technology program (SAMS) for the Eastern Region including development of Province - wide communication tools. 

Prior to joining the County of Renfrew, Laura held a variety of roles in the social services field including Addiction Treatment Services as a Case Manager, a Training Consultant with Algonquin College, assisting youth to complete their high school education and/or find employment and training opportunities and in the role of Program Coordinator and Mental Health Caseworker for Community Mental Health Services. Always driven to improve the experience of those utilizing services, Laura has been active on many boards and committees throughout her career including the Renfrew and Area Social Safety Net Committee, the Family Focus Committee of Arnprior and Area, Renfrew County Committee on Abused Women, OMSSA Board of Directors, End Violence Against Women (EVA) Renfrew County and the Board of Pathways Alcohol and Drug Treatment Services, MacKay Manor Recovery Home and The Renfrew Police Services Board, to name a few. 

Passionate about people and services, Laura has been a strong voice for those in need. Removing barriers and creating easy spaces for people to feel comfortable and valued is what she is known for in her work and in her community. Ensuring that the residents have a clear pathway to services, and staff feel valued in the work they do, has been the focus of her work throughout her career. She is a no-nonsense kind of person who speaks clearly and without hesitation when it comes to any form of advocacy.

Lifetime Achievement Award

OMSSA's Lifetime Achievement Award recognizing the long-standing contribution of exceptional OMSSA members who have recently retired or who plan on retiring ahead of next year's OMSSA Exchange Conference.

Douglas Bartholomew-Saunders

Following 45 years of management and executive experience in government operated and funded health and human services, Douglas uses his expertise to provide strategic advice to government, not-for-profit and for-profit organizations. His experience spans service system management, multi-system integration, strategy and policy development, systems expansion, and oversight design and implementation within the human services and includes considerable understanding and expertise in diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

Recent strategic advisory work includes:

  • Collaborating with an Ontario social services organization develop its 10-year Early Learning and Child Care Service plan
  • Advising an Ontario temporary shelter on managing external pressure to relocate its facility and operations
  • Advising two Ontario based social service organizations on fiscal viability in an environment of declining funding and donor bases
  • Leading an Ontario municipality through the introduction of integrated service access and delivery to improve client service and reduce multiple intakes
  • Leading an Ontario immigration settlement community to settle and provide multiple services to 1,800 immigrants on an emergency basis in one year
  • Introduced new thinking and concepts of care into family medicine through the College of Family Physicians of Canada to address the unique medical needs of the LGBT+ communities in partnership with a prominent Ontario Family Physician (1980s/90s)

Commitment and involvement in local, provincial and national charitable and voluntary sectors remain a passion for Douglas.  He has served on a variety of boards of directors including the Ontario Municipal Social Services Association, Sparrow Lake Alliance, EGALE, Canadians for Equal Marriage, AIDS Committee of Cambridge Kitchener Waterloo & Area (as founding Chair), to name a few. He has been an active supporter of the Arts having been a member of the Patrons Council of the National Ballet of Canada and a member of both the Stratford and Shaw Festivals. Locally, he was a director-at-large on the Board of the United Way of Cambridge and North Dumfries and currently sits as a Board member of Porchlight Counselling Services and The Cambridge Shelter Corporation.

In 2020, the Ontario Municipal Social Services Association awarded Douglas the Patti Moore Human Services Integration Award for excellence in integration and human services leadership. The award is presented annually to one member of the Association who excels in leadership and service integration.

Douglas, along with his husband Michael and their two miniature schnauzers, Friedrich and Greta reside in Cambridge, Ontario

Local Municipal Champion Awards

OMSSA's Local Municipal Champion Awards recognize the great work done in advancing excellence in human services integration and service system management by teams from CMSMs and DSSABs across the province. Teams may include CMSM and DSSAB staff in partnership with community organizations and/or initiatives where CMSM and DSSAB staff work together with their communities. Our Local Municipal Champion Award recipients will be recognized at our 2024 Exchange Conference.

City of Brantford Build Belonging: Inclusive EarlyON Programming

Build Belonging is a collaboration between the Brantford Immigration Partnership, Community Living Brant, Child and Family Services of Grand Erie, YMCA Immigrant Services, the Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic District School Board, and the City of Brantford. The goal of Build Belonging is to increase EarlyON attendance from diverse families, by offering culturally-informed programming, art, books, and toys, and seeking guidance from local subject matter experts. The project also identified community and cultural champions who attended the EarlyON Event Series to share stories and experiences, and to create an inviting space for families that have been historically underrepresented in EarlyON programming. Over the first six months, attendance at these EarlyON sites increased by nearly 10 per cent, with a high propotion of ‘new’ visitors representing a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. This project supports the goals of the City of Brantford 10-Year Children’s Services Plan, Building the Community from the Kids Up, and the City of Brantford Inclusive Community Plan 2023-2026

City of Ottawa Catherine Street Community Service Hub

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the community was faced with the closure of many programs and services. The City of Ottawa’s Community and Social Services department established temporary respite centres as a place where Ottawa residents experiencing homelessness, or those precariously housed, could go to meet their needs. As service delivery began to transition back to the community, gaps in programs and services were identified and that were anticipated to exist beyond the pandemic. In response, the Catherine St. Community Service Hub (the Hub) was established.

The Hub provides integrated person-centered services through collocation, system navigation, information sharing, partnership, and case management services. Strategically co-located within the City of Ottawa’s Employment and Social Services and Employment Ontario sites, caring and knowledgeable staff and community partners work together to provide wrap around municipal and community services and supports in one location with the goal of maximizing positive outcomes for Ottawa residents. Services provided include OW and ODSP financial and application assistance, employment services, childcare subsidy support, housing and crisis supports and referrals, and community and health services including vaccine, dental and identification clinics, harm reduction, legal supports, and a community food bank. On average, the Hub has over 2,600 visits per month. It is a safe, accessible space where everyone is welcome.  

City of Windsor Asylum Claimant Team

Immigration, Refugees, Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has been providing temporary accommodations in hotels for asylum claimants entering Canada without accommodation arriving through the Roxham Road irregular border crossing into Quebec. The pressure on the social support system led IRCC to expand its hotel operations outside of Quebec by transferring asylum claimants via charter bus to multiple municipalities across Ontario for temporary hotel accommodations. IRCC contacted City of Windsor Administration on December 30th, 2022, with information on the transfers. Three Windsor hotels totaling 439 rooms were secured for over 500 claimants representing 30 nationalities and 18 languages. The sudden increase in applications and case management from applicants with language barrier put pressure on already stretched resources on City of Windsor Employment & Social Services. The Department immediately put together a contingency plan to respond to the influx of applications and caseload increase within a short period of time. A special assignment team was created under the leadership of the Intake Supervisor, the team included – three caseworkers and two intake service representatives. This team brainstormed the most efficient and responsive methods to respond to the applications, case management, and other support challenges without putting undue hardship on existing staff resources. Together, the team has completed 700+ applications within a two-month time period and maintained up to-date case management for a caseload of 700+ clients.

The approach is to leverage on resources from provincial, local, external community partnership and client self-serve strategies. Applications and case management are completed at hotels where clients are at to avoid increase traffic to the OW office. Clerical support assist clients to navigate SADA online application tool, bilingual staff and translation software on clients’ mobile device are utilized to support client language needs, assist all clients registering for digital self services (MyBenefits, DBD & RPC), the team took a shared responsibility approach with 3 caseworkers supporting 700+ Benefit Units, providing access to other sectors for intensive support (housing, health, education, child care, and employment registration/service) at hotels. The key to success is having clerical support assist with tasks, messages, phones, and taking on any administration duties that assist the client to free up the caseworker. IRCC recognized this application and case management model as a best business practice and the Asylum Claimant Team was asked to share the practice with other municipalities that experienced a similar influx. Feedback from claimants was positive and all received the support needed to transition to living in Windsor-Essex County or other municipalities. 

County of Simcoe Local Immigration Partnership Ukrainian Response

In February 2022, war broke out in Ukraine, and the Canadian Government created the Canada Ukrainian Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET) to provide a mechanism for individuals and families fleeing war to arrive in Canada. The Simcoe County Local Immigration Partnership responded to the increasing number of Ukrainians arriving in Simcoe County by working with community stakeholders to share information, identify gaps, and develop solutions. A unique section of information for CUAET holders was created on www.immigration.simcoe.ca; Early In 2023, County staff worked collaboratively across the Social and Community Services Division to improve outcomes for Ukrainian arrivals through enhancements to local service delivery. Homelessness funding was allocated to provide resources and create a new housing navigator position in the community. Fifty-six CUAET holders moved from temporary accommodations that were scheduled for demolition to permanent housing because of this support. A single point of contact in the Children Services Department was established to help CUAET holders find childcare spots and access fee subsidies. To further support CUAET holders in resettlement in Simcoe County and enhance opportunities for employment, interested CUAET holders were invited to take part in Early Childhood Education Assistant training. This employment training initiative resulted in five new Ukrainian workers in the Early Learning and Child Care Sector.

Region of Durham Adult Protective Services: Innovative Partnerships and Housing Stability

The Adult Protective Services (APS) team provides case management and advocacy for over 300 adults with developmental disabilities living in the community. Clients of the APS program are those with mild developmental/intellectual disabilities that can often ‘fall-through-the-cracks’ and can represent some of our most vulnerable citizens in the community. Traditionally, the APS team operated within its own intake/application process, separate from Ontario Works (OW), Housing Services, and other social services programs. Durham’s team recognized that OW intakes may not identify someone with a mild developmental disability who might qualify for ODSP. The APS team then began to establish an innovative partnership with the OW office. The approach instituted an integrated model that provided a supportive process to both OW staff and clients. Wrap-around support aimed to ensure financial security, homelessness prevention, and reduced vulnerability for clients. Today, APS workers (APSWs) are successfully embedded within OW offices, Primary Care Outreach Program, Mental Health Outreach Program, community organizations and hubs. APSW’s support clientele with suspected developmental delays to connect with Developmental Services Ontario (DSO) and access funded assessments to confirm eligibility, if required. This has resulted in enhanced access to appropriate services and supports for individuals with a developmental disability. This process also ensures that OW clients who are DSO eligible are transferred to ODSP. The APS team also plays a part in helping to reduce systemic barriers to accessing housing. Through a partnership with Housing Services the APSW Program attained rent supplement units to provide affordable community-based housing to clients, and ultimately preventing homelessness for many. More recently, the APS team began targeting Canada Ontario Housing Benefit (COHB) to aid in securing affordable housing for vulnerable clients. The APSW service model supports clients to maintain their housing through a long term homelessness prevention lens.

Niagara Region Indigenous-led RECE Training Program

For Niagara’s Indigenous-led early years and childcare service providers, the current early years staffing crisis is exacerbated by the dire lack of Indigenous Registered Early Childhood Educators (RECEs). Leveraging strong relationships with local Indigenous and Post Secondary partners plus provincial workforce development funding, the Niagara Region Children’s Services team pulled together the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre (FENFC), Niagara College, and Six Nations Polytechnic to brainstorm ideas that could add culturally appropriate staff to local Indigenous early years program delivery. Working collaboratively, the partners developed the Indigenous RECE training program, integrating the strengths of each partner into a unique service delivery model that is delivered at FENFC where Indigenous Early Learning occurs. Launched in Fall 2022, the participants will acquire the skills necessary to work as an ECE in Ontario as well as receive the culturally specific training that will help to build a more diverse, equitable and inclusive Indigenous early years workforce. Jennifer Dockstader, FENFC Executive Director stated, This program is ReconcilliAction and an example that when we move beyond policy into innovative solutions, there are benefits to everyone. We are proud to help our people and be able to do this with established partners and new partners. When we as a community succeed, all of Niagara succeeds. 

Better Together 2023

Holding the idea that growth and leadership thrive in connected allyships, in 2023, six children's services leaders, Shannon Brown (Leeds Grenville), Kelly Emery (Chatham Kent), Kristine Greaves (City of Cornwall), Pam Kent (Prince Edward Lennox and Addington), Miranda Mackie (City of Greater Sudbury), and Tonya Millsap (County of Simcoe) sought to take a new approach to leading through the transformational change of CWELCC in our sector. Supported by Senior staff, Caitlyn Bourque City of Greater Sudbury), Christina Davis (Leeds Grenville), and Jessica Brodie and Nadine Ladouceur (Chatham Kent), this group created additional opportunities for leadership development, succession planning and peer to peer mentorship.

Referred to as BT2023, leaders with a shared interest and passion for Early Learning and Child Care organized themselves to engage in collective learning, knowledge sharing, cost sharing initiatives, and networking. The work centered on three pillars: New Allies which supported one another in mobilizing relationships with economic development allies; New Narratives which built media content accessible for students and reaffirming our position that a career in Early Learning and Child Care is a rewarding career; and New Models which produced literature on workplace models that may not have been considered within our individual communities.

BT2023 has enabled its membership to champion change by creating time and space for strategic thinking with critical thought leaders. Through this collaboration the group has been able to share resources and knowledge as well as to build on ideas and concepts that will continue to benefit each of their municipalities now and into the future. The group really personifies the concept that together, we are better; that collective thinking around common goals brings forth greater innovation. BT2023 is just the beginning, the professional relationships and ideas that have come to life through this group will continue to flourish into 2024 and beyond.