In 1960, Mount St. Joseph Centre opened to treat emotionally disturbed boys. It was located at 354 King Street West, Hamilton, which was the former site of Mount St. Joseph Orphanage, which had been closed by the Sisters of St. Joseph due to the declining number of orphans in residence. A shift in views occurred in the 1950s, and the Welfare Protection Agency began placing more children into foster homes rather than keeping them in large orphanages.
Mount St. Joseph Centre was a private, charitable, and non-denominational organization, operated by a board of directors. The Sisters of St. Joseph sat on the board, along with professionals and laypersons. Sister Eugenia Callaghan was the Administrative Director of the Centre. Other Sisters worked there as teachers and child care workers. All of the Sisters who worked at the centre had living quarters on the third floor.
Due to its success, more space was eventually needed, and in 1975, boys aged 6 to 12 remained at 354 King Street West, while boys aged 13 to 17 moved to 66 Canada Street, otherwise known as “Canada House”.
Mount St. Joseph Centre’s board of directors defined “emotionally disturbed youth” as children who had difficulty adjusting to everyday life, and thus needed special attention. The boys were described as being in conflict with their families, communities, and themselves.
A child entered the centre after first trying community-based, out-patient counselling services. If this treatment did not prove helpful, then a team of representatives from the Children’s Aid Society, Board of Education, Probation and Court Services, treatment centres, counselling services, and the Regional Children’s Centre met to discuss the child’s case. If it was determined that the child’s needs could be better met by residential treatment, they were sent to Mount St. Joseph Centre. It is important to note that children were never taken away from their parents. Instead, the centre offered a place for boys to live and receive treatment. If the child did not have a family, then the Centre worked with the Children’s Aid Society to find an appropriate family for them.
The therapy was based on everyday positive relationships with staff members. If a boy acted out, he was provided with explanations and clarifications about his behaviour, and encouraged to try new responses. This type of therapy was used to instill self-esteem into the child, as well as re-adjust his thinking about how to better respond to social interactions. The children were encouraged to join community activities, like sport clubs.
In 1967, the Department of Health promulgated the White Paper, which outlined the necessity for residential treatment centres. As a result, Mount St. Joseph Centre was accredited as a Schedule IV institution under the Revised Mental Health Act of August, 1968. This Act provided financial support for children in residential treatment centres, but not for additional educational services. In 1971, it was decided that the Public School Board would assume the responsibility for the educational programme at the centre.
On September 5, 1980, Mount St. Joseph Centre moved from 354 King Street to 69 Flatt Street, Burlington. They subsequently changed their name to Woodview Children’s Centre. The Sisters were not involved with the Centre once it moved.
With a now vacant building at 354 King Street, the Sisters put together a committee to determine what to do with the property. There were discussions about creating a seniors’ day centre and also a pastoral care centre for aging priests. The seniors’ day centre was to be in partnership with Providence House, a facility for the care of the aged, which was an institution which had been founded by the Sisters. It does not appear that these projects came to fruition.
In 1982, the Cool School leased two floors of the former Mount St. Joseph Centre. The school offered alternative education to assist troubled youth and those with learning disabilities. Other tenants included a pastoral counselling centre, St. Joseph Hospital Foundation and a bereavement group sponsored by the Sisters.