The development of Madame Vanier Children’s Services (Vanier) as a treatment centre for emotionally disturbed children began in 1963. A committee appointed by the Children’s Aid Society and the Catholic Social Services in London with Mrs. Joan Smith as the Chairperson, reviewed the need for a residential treatment facility for emotionally disturbed children. The May Court Club of London pledged $50,000 as initial operating monies for the agency.
Vanier Becomes First Licensed Children’s Mental Health Centre
On July 1, 1965, the facility was incorporated and commenced operation in Fontbonne Hall a 100 year-old converted mansion located in London, Ontario. To supplement the funding from the May Court Club, the Ontario Ministry of Community & Social Services provided an operating subsidy. As well, the United Way supplemented the funding.
The name was adopted with the consent of Madame Pauline Vanier, chosen to give credibility to the organization in its fundraising. Dr. J.R. Dubois was the first Executive Director of the new organization and remained in this position until 1985.
The facility grew quickly. The original 10 beds soon doubled to 20. In 1968, Madame Vanier Children’s Services was the first private treatment centre licensed in the province of Ontario under the Children’s Mental Health Services legislation. An improved funding subsidy under this legislation allowed for the development of an outpatient clinic service to supplement the residential program.
New Trafalgar Street Facility Offers New Programs and Services
The rented facilities at Fontbonne Hall soon proved inadequate for the needs of this treatment centre. A children’s “riot” in 1968 ended with the London Fire Department coming to the agency to rescue children from the steep slate roof. This incident and the subsequent press coverage confirmed the need for a facility designed and built to serve the treatment needs of emotionally and behaviourally disturbed children. Fundraising and planning for a new centre began.
In 1972, Vanier moved to new facilities at 871 Trafalgar Street. The modern campus services included residential treatment, day treatment, and an expanding outpatient service.
The agency began to grow, adding intensive community based treatment services and new treatment programs. Two homes in the community were purchased and developed into residential group homes. In 2014 Vanier was selected as Lead Agency in Middlesex for Children’s Mental Health.
Today, Vanier is recognized throughout the city of London and the province of Ontario as a leader in children’s mental health services.