Innovation in Child Welfare: Introducing the Child Welfare Immigration Centre of Excellence

Presenters: Liz Okai and Danielle Ungara, Team Leaders, Child Welfare Immigration Centre of Excellence
Date: Wednesday, November 21, 2018


This webinar explored the intersection between immigration and child welfare. It highlighted the Child Welfare Immigration Centre of Excellence (CWICE), held at Peel Children's Aid Society. The presenters outlined the context of child welfare across Ontario, and in Peel Region. Given this context and changes to the landscape, they discuss the necessity of an initiative such as CWICE. Next, the presenters explain the service model at CWICE, highlighting particular components, such as the value of partnerships at the local, provincial and federal levels. Although the Centre has only been open for 6 months, they describe findings from research and data that have been collected, and share their vision for the future.

Presenter biographies

Liz Okai, Team Leader, Child Welfare Immigration Centre of Excellence

Liz Okai has been an employee of Peel CAS for 13 years and part of Peel CAS’s management team for the last 8 years. She obtained a Bachelor of Social work degree and BA in Sociology from McMaster University and then went on to obtain her Master of Social work degree (Policy Stream) from the University of Toronto. She has managed Peel CAS’s Immigration team for the last 7 years and in this role, she has worked to strengthen partnerships between the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), Office of the Children’s Lawyer (OCL) and other relevant agencies in the work with unaccompanied Minors. As part of her role, Liz has facilitated joint training sessions and presentations with CBSA, IRCC, and the OCL, about Peel CAS’s role in the work with unaccompanied minors. Since 2016, the Immigration team at Peel CAS was selected to lead the Ontario Syrian Refugee Response Project –providing child welfare education and brief family support to Syrian newcomer families. The team also works closely with Global Affairs Canada to ensure that Canadian children caught in precarious situations abroad are brought home safely. Liz co-authored Immigration Status Matters- an immigration tool guide for the field. Currently, Liz is one of the Team Leaders of the Child Welfare Immigration Centre of Excellence.

Danielle Ungara, Team Leader, Child Welfare Immigration Centre of Excellence

Over the last fifteen years, Danielle has held various social work positions in child welfare, pediatric healthcare and academia. Her Master’s thesis research has been disseminated through publication and has been presented in academic forums. Danielle previously provided strategic direction to organizations through her work on the Board of Directors of Canadian Mental Health Association, Peel Branch, and as part of the intensive care management team in pediatric healthcare. A member of Peel CAS’ leadership team since 2012, Danielle played a role in the agency-wide implementation of the provincial Child Protection Information Network system. As one of two Team Leaders in the Child Welfare Immigration Centre of Excellence (CWICE), Danielle’s team provides outreach, consultation and service across the province of Ontario.

Okai photo

Liz Okai

Ungara photo

Danielle Ungara