The Children’s Foundation Expands it’s Free to Grow Program to Include Mental Health Support for Local Children

August 20, 2020

The Children’s Foundation of Guelph and Wellington is taking important steps forward to ensure that children’s overall health and well-being are supported, by expanding their Free to Grow program to include mental health counselling for local children and youth from low-income households.

The Foundation serves children and youth that may have been impacted directly or indirectly by anxiety, depression, addiction, loss, trauma, and other mental health challenges; and understands that access to therapy can sometimes be challenging for the under-served population. In Canada, only 1 in 5 children who need mental health support receives it, and financial barriers are a common factor in children not getting the help they need. With that gap in mind, the Foundation will begin funding counselling for children and youth, working with other social service agencies who will refer high priority children living in poverty.

“At the Children’s Foundation, our mission has always been to nurture healthy childhood development; and while our Free to Grow program indirectly supports the mental well-being of youth, we understand that now, more than ever, children need more direct and individualized mental health counselling,” says Karyn Kirkwood, Program Director of the Free to Grow Program. “The mental health and well-being of youth is a crucial part of childhood development and a natural fit for us to support kids who need this specialized help.”

The Foundation will be partnering with Five Star Relationships, a local psychotherapy and coaching organization, to offer weekly counselling sessions to children and youth in need. “We are thrilled to partner with the Children’s Foundation of Guelph in providing supportive counselling assistance to children, youth, and their families,” says Five Star Relationships CEO, Andrea Groenewald. “Our counselling model will help children and youth identify the stressors in their lives and find strategies that increase mental health and overall well-being.”

Five Star Relationships will also be offering interactive psycho-educational workshops to support parents by giving them the tools required to support children struggling with mental health issues.

“Launching this newly expanded initiative is a big step forward for the Children’s Foundation, as we build on our program supports for those most vulnerable in our community,” says Emma Rogers, CEO. “We are so thankful to Andrea Groenewald at Five Star Relationships for working with us to create this important opportunity for children and their families to address mental health challenges.”

The Children’s Foundation will begin piloting this program in September. To learn more about the Free to Grow program, including the new mental health initiative, visit:

Mental Health