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CYC People

Theresa (Coyne) Fraser

This is a vacation picture taken with one of our children. I hate pictures of myself but this one represents great memories and makes me appreciate being a Mom.




I started volunteering in this field in the 1970s at Toronto Parks and Recreation and thenThisteltown Regional Centre.  I later graduated from Humber College’s Child Care Worker program and subsequently was hired at Huntley Youth Services (now Youth Link) in a girls residential mental health centre. I also worked two evenings a week and a Saturday at Dominion grocery stores as a cashier. I made more money as a cashier weekly than in the Union position I held as a CCW.  I soon moved to Alberta to be near my now husband and worked in another mental health centre. They offered me $19,000 a year and I felt that I was going to be rich for doing what I loved. Within less than a year I became a supervisor. I was also required to engage in the weekly (nonpaid) CYC training program because the agency trained their own staff. In Edmonton, I met Jack Phelan who was the college supervisor from Grant MacEwan for students I also supervised.

I have held many volunteer and paid positions since then. I have had the privilege of working in all CYC sectors except hospital settings. When my eldest child was a year old I became the “housemother” of a parent model group home and for eight years parented adolescents in crisis until 2001 when my partner and I switched roles and he became the stay at home parent for our big, inclusive, eclectic family:  We have been treatment foster parents for over 25 years and have had at least 200 children/youth call us Mom and Dad. The last fifteen years have enabled me to work outside of the home and also come home to all of the things that one would expect occurs in a residential setting, like plan of care meetings, Missing person’s reports, tantrums over cancelled visits, and wonderful holidays so Child and Youth Care is our life’s work and our many children have seen the wonder of a stay at home Dad. I have been honoured to share my CYC and Play Therapy knowledge at colleges Universities and international gatherings.

How I came to be in this field

I met my first CYC as a little girl when my family “lived” at Sick Children’s hospital in Toronto: One of my sisters and I were in foster care as little people until my mother was healthy and out of the hospital. Later my parents wanted to give back and they became foster parents. I remember saying at my Humber College interview that I had seen the impact of trauma and abuse when kids came to live with us and I wanted to help families before their children ended up in care. 

A favorite saying

It is easier to build strong children than repair broken men. — Frederick Douglass

A few thoughts about child and youth care

I believe it is important to not systemize kids and instead create safe and inclusive places of belonging.  We need to have transparency in our CYC educational programs as it is important that those who have done the frontline work share their stories of reflective practice. I think these stories are more valuable than academic credentials in my own teaching practice.

Last thing I read, watched, heard, which I would recommend to others  Love this book as does my youngest son.

A favorite CYC experience

Taking a new group of teens (who previously were labelled as runaways) winter camping near the Athabasca Ice fields area of Alberta. They were all admitted to our residential program the Friday before the Winter break so my staff team decided that we should take them into the bush in order to develop a core peer group and prevent them from going back to the streets. They were accurately told, “If you run you may freeze”. After a week of winter camping we had a group of teens who had become committed to themselves, each other, the staff and our program.

A few thoughts for those starting out

Be real!  If we want kids to be real with us we need to be real with them. Also, never stop learning. I have continued with other certifications that haven’t replaced my CYC foundational learning but have rather built upon the wisdom that was shared with me by CYC’s like Grace Nostbakken, and Jane Clifton as well as all of the children/youth that have risked being real with me.

A recommended child and youth care reading link 

CYC-Net of course!

A writing of my own

Influences on my work

All the children and youth that have walked with me. CYC students who are open to sharing their stories, as well as the work of Dr. Bruce Perry. The neurosequential model of therapeutics, Play Therapy, Sandtray Worldplay Therapy and attachment based interventions make lots of sense to me and have proven effective in my personal and professional practice.

Anything else

I was ordained as a Reverend in 2015 so I can officiate weddings, celebration of life ceremonies and entrustment ceremonies for foster and adoptive families.


Last updated October 2016

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