My name is Stephanie Ambert and I am a Registered Social Worker who has been working at Child Development Institute (CDI), an accredited children’s mental health agency in Toronto. I started out at CDI as a student completing her placement when I was completing a Master’s Degree in Social work from the University of Toronto in 2001. The Agency hired me upon completion of my Master’s and I have been there ever since.
I am a Child & Family Clinician working in a Program called Family Community Counseling Team which works primarily with children under the age of 6. 2018 research (MHASEF, 2015) conducted a prevalence study and found that as many as 1 in 5 children and youth in Ontario will experience some form of mental health problems and 5 out of 6 of those children will not receive the treatment they need. The reality of long wait-lists and a no increases to our base funding has been very challenging. In spite of the challenges, I work with families of children who have identified social, emotional, behavioral and/or developmental issues. I work closely with parents to gather background information and to formulate goal plans collaboratively and jointly with parents, schools, and other agencies. I have also run parent groups for parents/caregivers who are involved with Children’s Aid Societies or whose children are in care as well as groups for parents of infants and toddlers. In my day to day work, I do a lot of home visiting in which I facilitate child-directed play, feelings and emotion regulation activities, psycho-educational work, attachment-based parenting, emotion-focused coaching, and narrative therapy.
In addition, I have also been given extensive training on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, which occurs when a woman drinks during pregnancy and it causes brain damage in the developing fetus and baby and this can cause a number of life long consequences for individuals affected such as poor judgment, difficulty with emotion regulation and learning difficulties. In a recent study of elementary school students in the GTA, it was found to be as common as 3-5% (Popova, 2018). I sit on both the Toronto FASD Coordinating Network as well as the Toronto FASD Leadership Team. I help facilitate a Caregiver Support Group along with FASworld Toronto for parents and caregivers of children, youth and young adults with the disorder. FASD is 100% preventable but in theory only as many women do not even know they are pregnant. If women are of childbearing age, and they are not using any methods of contraception, they are actively planning a pregnancy and need to abstain from alcohol. Alcohol and pregnancy don’t mix. There is no safe time, no safe kind and no safe of amount during pregnancy