A History of Extend-A-Family
Extend-A-Family formally began in Canada in the fall of 1975. A group of North Toronto parents incorporated to form an organization which they hoped would meet the needs of their children with special needs. The children needed a broader base of social experience, while their parents needed occasional relief from the challenges of parenting a child with special needs. In the process, they hoped that the community would become more aware of the needs and gifts of children with disabilities.
This group of parents first met informally when their children attended the same nursery school. Within a short time, relationships formed and friendships developed. When the parents learned of an organization in Hartford, Connecticut that encouraged an extended parenting network, they decided to form a similar network locally. By combining information from the Hartford group, commitment from their members, hard work and a surprisingly generous response from the community, Extend-A-Family Toronto soon became a reality.
Following their lead, a group of Hamilton parents started Hamilton & District Extend-A-Family in 1980. From an initial group of a dozen families, the organization has grown to encompass over 100 families. Word of the success of the Toronto and Hamilton programs spread quickly. Requests for information came from interested groups all across the country. By 1986, twenty-two new Extend-A-Family programs had come into existence.
The success of the existing programs has kindled interest in other cities across Canada and the United States. The original twelve parents who took action to realize their dreams have left a remarkable legacy.
Hamilton & District Extend-A-Family is a not-for-profit organization. The mandate of the agency is to match families who have children with disabilities to volunteers in their community. These volunteers offer their time and companionship on a regular part-time basis. The matches are facilitated by coordinators with the agency.
Extend-A-Family employs an Executive Director, two half-time Family Coordinators, a part-time Recreation Coordinator, and an administrative assistant. It also has a voluntary Board of Directors composed of area professionals and parents. Although the organization is funded by the Ministry of Community and Social Services, the donations of corporations and individuals in the community help to make many of the programs Hamilton & District Extend-A-Family offers possible.