Announcing our 2021 Award Recipients

OMSSA is excited to announce our slate of 2021 Award Recipients. This impressive group of individuals and teams will be recognized at our upcoming 2021 Policy Conference and 2022 Exchange Conference. Learn more about the outstanding individuals and teams we'll be celebrating below:
Champion of Human Services Award | Dr. Kwame McKenzie
Patti Moore Human Services Integration Award | Cordelia Abankwa
Young Leader Award | Nohad Abou-Hamad & Ben Reyes-Landicho
Lifetime Achievement Award | Grace Mater
Local Municipal Champion Awards:

Dr. Kwame McKenzie | Wellesley Institute
Champion of Human Services Award

Dr. Kwame McKenzie is the CEO of Wellesley Institute and is an international expert on the social causes of mental illness, suicide and the development of effective, equitable health systems. Dr. McKenzie is also Director of Health Equity at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), a Full Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto and a consultant working with the World Health Organization on equity. As a policy advisor, clinician and academic with over 250 papers, 5 books, and numerous awards he has worked across a broad spectrum to improve population health and health services for three decades. He is a member of the National Advisory Council on Poverty, a member of Canada’s Expert Advisory Panel on COVID-19 and Mental Health, the Minister of Health’s Covid-19 Testing and Tracing Advisory and was a member of Canada’s Delegation to the High Level Political Forum on the Social Development Goals. Dr. McKenzie was previously a Human Rights Commissioner for Ontario and Chair of the Research and Evaluation Advisory Committee of Ontario's Basic Income Pilot. In addition to his academic, policy and clinical work, Kwame has been a columnist for the Guardian, Times-online and Toronto Star and a past BBC Radio presenter.

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 2021 Policy Conference.

Cordelia Abankwa | Employment and Training Division, Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development
Patti Moore Human Services Integration Award

Cordelia Abankwa is an executive leader and relationship builder with 30 years of experience in municipal and provincial public service where she has led innovation in complex, multidimensional environments. In her current role as Assistant Deputy Minister of the Employment and Training Division with the Ministry Labour, Training and Skills Development, Cordelia is responsible for Ontario’s apprenticeship, employment and training programs, which serve approximately one million people annually. Her division, which is undergoing significant modernization, also promotes strong local economic development by helping job seekers improve skills and find employment, and by working with employers to address their specific labour market needs.  As General Manager of Social Services for The Regional Municipality of York, she led day to day operations as well as the transformation and modernization of Regional Ontario Works, Children‘s Services and Homelessness Prevention programs. Immediately prior to this position, Cordelia was Managing Director responsible for strategic analysis and program development for the Region‘s Community and Health Services Department. While in this role she also directed program communications, and managed Regional community investment programs. Cordelia has a BA Honours in Political Science and Sociology from Queen‘s University, a Masters in Environmental Studies from York University, and a Masters Certificate in Leadership Innovation from the Schulich School of Business. She has been a Board Director for The United Way of York Region, and OMSSA, and represented the Region on a variety of Provincial committees. Before joining the municipal sector, Ms. Abankwa worked for the Ontario Public Service in a variety of senior management positions in several Ministries. Cordelia’s leadership is inspired by a deep commitment to solutions that support people to reach their full potential through customer focused service, inclusion, diversity, and innovative partnerships.

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 recipient will be recognized at our 2021 Policy Conference.

Nohad Abou-Hamad & Ben Reyes-Landicho | The Multiculturalism Group, City of Ottawa
Young Leader Award

Nohad Abou-Hamad has a Master’s in Counselling Psychology and is currently working as Case Worker at the City of Ottawa. Nohad completed her Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology, with a minor in the Social Sciences of Health at the University of Ottawa. Nohad works part-time as a Psychotherapist providing counselling and therapy to individuals at the Joy Health and Research Centre. Nohad is first-generation Canadian who comes from a large Lebanese family and was born and raised in Ottawa, Ontario.

Benedict Reyes-Landicho is a passionate and enthusiastic graduated from Carleton University. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Social Work with a concentration in Disability Studies, and an advanced Diploma as a Child and Youth Practitioner from Algonquin College. Ben is currently working as a Caseworker at the City of Ottawa. Ben is a first-generation Filipino-Canadian from Ottawa, Ontario who was taught at a young age to love, respect and celebrate diversity from his Filipino parents!

Nohad and Ben are two of the three co-founders of the Multiculturalism Group with the third facilitator being Doha Elmahi. The Multiculturalism Group is a staff lead initiative that strives to educate, engage, and empower staff and community members within the City of Ottawa. Both are dedicated to supporting staff and their clients through collaborative problem solving and implementing innovative and progressive change. In addition to their primary roles as a Case Workers Nohad and Ben have been recognized as leaders for their extraordinary commitment to supporting cultural diversity within the workplace and creating an ongoing and accepting work environment for staff and residents. Both Nohad and Ben continue to develop their leadership skills within the City of Ottawa as they are both motivated to strengthen intercultural awareness within their workplace, facilitate intercultural communication training to staff and collaboratively mentor those around them!

OMSSA's Young Leader Award honours an individual 30 years or younger who has been recognized as a leader, created change, and strengthened leadership in their community. Our Young Leader Award recipients will be recognized at our 2022 Exchange Conference.

Grace Mater | City of Hamilton
Lifetime Achievement Award

Throughout her years in public service, Grace Mater has been committed to collaborative approaches that enhance the lives of children and families in Hamilton. Grace’s career included working in Public Health as well as Human Services.  Through her leadership of the Best Start Initiative, Hamilton created a community-based planning approach that was recognized as best practice provincially. Grace led investment strategies that saw innovative approaches such as service provider networks and mobile child development services. Under her leadership Hamilton experienced modernization and expansion in child care that dramatically reduced wait times for children needing financial assistance for child care. Grace led the work on Human Services Integration and Community Hubs for the City of Hamilton. As well the creation of the Children and Youth Charter of Rights which was recognized by the United Nations.  

OMSSA's Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes the long-standing contribution of exceptional OMSSA members who have recently retired or who plan on retiring in the year that the award is given. Our Lifetime Achievement Award recipient will be recognized at our 2022 Exchange Conference.

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 2022 Exchange Conference.

Chatham-Kent Employment and Social Services: Income Tax Support

In Chatham-Kent, the team of Community Relations Workers (CRW), Community Navigators (CN) and Learning, Earning and Parenting (LEAP) Case Managers recognize that for the people they work with, completing annual income tax returns is costly and confusing. They also know that failing to do so could have many negative affects on the participant and their financial situation.  To remedy that situation, during the 2020 tax season, the team of 6 participated in the Community Volunteer Income Tax program (offered by the Canada Revenue Agency – CRA) which allowed them to complete simple income tax returns, free of charge, for the individuals they were supporting in the community, allowing their participants to be able to file their income tax without incurring any financial burden.  This also allowed them to update their client’s CRA accounts, which helped them gain access to rebates and other financial considerations they would otherwise not have been eligible to receive.  Over the course of the income tax season* (as of October 21, 2021); the team of 6 has supported 267 individuals/families in the completion of their income tax returns and have put an additional $727,115.92 into the hands of some of CK’s most vulnerable citizens. 

City of Windsor: Centralized and Automated Intake

The City of Windsor’s Employment & Social Services department continues to support the Ministry’s goal of Accelerating Digital Delivery and was excited to launch the Centralized and Automated Intake (CAI) project in the spring of 2021. As CAI advances Human Service Integration and is the first major step for municipalities issuing benefits to support life stabilization, Windsor’s Ontario Works team implemented an effective change management model to maximize not only staff engagement, but also community engagement. The model included establishing a common agenda and determining clear roles and responsibilities for the forty-two committee members who enthusiastically volunteered to be part of this project.  The model also included a unique collaboration approach as community partners in Windsor Essex County were invited to attend one of four virtual presentations to learn more about the new delivery system. This also gave the department the opportunity to promote MyBenefits and the new Messaging features in SAMS. In total, one hundred and twenty-four staff from 27 different organizations attended these presentations and the feedback was phenomenal.  Throughout the implementation process, employee engagement increased as staff were dedicated to complete specific pre-launch, go-live, measurement and evaluation activities. In addition to the volunteer committee members, Intake Service Representatives; Caseworkers; Local Business Experts; Trainers; Supervisors; and more were also able to champion the process and assist both their peers and community agencies throughout the transition.  This was truly a departmental initiative that yielded tremendous success!

County of Renfrew: Human Services Integration

The County of Renfrew’s Human Services Integration transformation began during 2018 with the development of a local vision and plan to improve the service experience of clients accessing Ontario Works, Housing, and Child Care programs by having a no wrong door philosophy.  Achieving this involved implementing strategies to unite services in the areas of “bricks and mortar”, processes, communications, staffing, and technology. The County’s two main service hubs in the Town of Renfrew and City of Pembroke were renovated to collocate our Ontario Works, Housing, and Child Care programs and create one Community Services counter for all three programs. Local policies and processes were shifted to enhance collaboration between programs and to simplify and improve the accessibility of services.  Relationships and communications were enhanced with key partners internally and externally.  Investments were made in supporting a healthy corporate culture through a transformative leadership approach and enhanced succession planning to retain and cross-train staff.  Efficiencies were achieved through shared technology and equipment. HSI in the Community Services department has led to other integration efforts in the corporation and throughout the two locations, County services are working collaboratively, sharing resources, staffing and providing a more seamless service to the residents.

County of Simcoe: Supporting Relationships for Learning (SRL)

Consolidated Municipal Service Managers have historically taken a 'checks and balances' approach to assessing 'quality' in licensed child care. Related analysis suggests that these approaches duplicate the work of compliance partners (i.e. Licensing, Health, Fire etc.) and much of the time fail to produce quality improvement. Given this, and taking a Results Based Accountability lens, County of Simcoe staff invited early learning system partners to join them in re-conceptualizing ways in which 'quality' could be more meaningfully experienced and evaluated, and responsibility for enhancing quality could be collectively shared. This was the genesis for Supporting Relationships for Learning (SRL).  Essentially, County of Simcoe SRL staff take up pedagogic work alongside educators and children, with an emphasis on values, dialogue, and research. This process produces documentation for collective study and assists program staff in articulating visions of a preferred future state.  Educators subsequently express related objectives in annual commitment plans and report annually on outcomes.  During the first year of implementation, data demonstrated that 82% of licensed programs engaged in SRL work, resulting in positive changes in learning conditions for children, educators, and in relationships with families.  Anecdotally, significant increase in operator-initiated interactions with County staff has been observed, whereas quality assurance work was previously County-initiated, unidirectional and instructional. Through SRL, educators' learning needs are identified which additionally helps to inform system capacity building opportunities and experiences. Through SRL, the County of Simcoe and licensed operators undertake meaningful work together, to ensure enhanced quality and capacity across the licensed system.

Lanark Country Children's Services: Early Childhood Educator Recruitment and Retention

Lanark County’s Early Childhood Educator recruitment and retention initiative is a notable example of the ongoing commitment to both the ECE profession and service system management. The nominated team brought strong ties to community groups that were typically segregated. The team was instrumental in creating a community wide system driven to achieve three specific outcomes: Retain current ECEs; Attract new individuals to the ECE course; and Guarantee employment for ECE graduates. Multiple initiatives have been established to support these goals including standardized training, provider succession planning tool, media and social media blitz, mentorship opportunities, and guaranteed employment pathways. Preliminary findings indicate child care and early years providers and their staff feel supported and valued, families appreciate stability in staffing, and soon-to-be graduates of the local community college are able to find work in their home community. The circular system supports ECE’s from pre-entrance to the field to becoming active long-term professionals.

York Region: Homelessness COVID-19 Response Team

In the spring of 2020, as COVID-19 began to impact York Region communities and the number of cases rose, York Region took proactive steps to develop a comprehensive and integrated strategy to support people experiencing or at risk of homelessness, to prevent/stop the spread of COVID-19, and prevent housing loss while proactively ensuring community and client needs were met through wraparound supports and services. Partnerships fostered among York Region staff across the corporation as well as with external partners including the United Way Greater Toronto, non-profit service providers, local business and the Provincial Government were instrumental to the Region’s success. Consistent planning, coordination and integration with service providers in the community, Emergency Housing and Violence Against Women Sectors, and Housing with Supports providers, helped to create innovative systems-focused solutions. The specialized supports (e.g. primary health care clinic at the Transitional Shelter) offered by various internal and external partners demonstrates how York Region leveraged funding such as the Social Services Relief Fund, resources and expertise to fill service gaps and facilitated integration across the sector to better provide timely support to individuals at risk of or experiencing homelessness. At a program/service level, York Region continues to adapt and enhance planning and delivery of core services to address the barriers and inequities exacerbated by the pandemic. This includes the creation of the following initiatives that thrived because of innovative partnerships: The Transitional and Self-Isolation Shelters, primary health care and mental health and addictions supports clinic, temporary arrears benefit program, digital access support, and training to build capacity to address anxiety and promote mental health wellness in children. York Region is using continuous quality improvement methods along with Key Performance Indicators to monitor success, track client outcomes and inform the development of current and future programs.

Congratulations to all of our 2021 Award Recipients!

OMSSA looks forward to recognizing this impressive slate of individuals and teams at our upcoming 2021 Policy Conference and 2022 OMSSA Exchange. Stay tuned for information about nominations for OMSSA's 2022 Awards. You can learn more about our awards program here on our website