Empower Simcoe: The Quality Work For Inclusion and Empowerment

Small Business Canada

In 1953, parents who wanted to provide an alternative to institutional placement for their children with intellectual disabilities called Simcoe Community Services. Today, they have rebranded as Empower Simcoe and have grown as a charitable, non-profit organization that a volunteer Board of Directors governs. The agency operates a Preschool Services Division, Community Living Division, and Regional Housing Support Services.


Empowering To Live A Full Life

Empower Simcoe’s work focuses on basic assurances, shared values, responsive services, community life and person-centred excellence. This promotes quality, personalized support for individuals and families, fostering environments of continuous quality improvement.

Empower Simcoe responds to community needs by providing inclusive support and services that improve the quality of all lives.  As a service organization, they strive relentlessly to empower individual aspirations while treating everyone with respect and dignity.

Their mission is to empower people to live full and inclusive lives by offering high-quality services. They are a welcoming organization that allows everyone to Be, Belong, and Thrive.

They develop, implement, and maintain a continuous quality improvement plan through The Child and Family Service Act, The Ministry of Community and Social Services’ Quality Assurance Measures, and Quality Measures as defined by the Council on Quality and Leadership. 

Empower Simcoe is a Council of Quality and Leadership (CQL) accredited agency beginning its third four-year accreditation period. This accreditation procedure validates the agency’s progress in carrying out these acts and measures. 

The Empower Simcoe Foundation was founded in 1998 to raise funds for Empower Simcoe’s activities and services that do not have regular funding sources.

Empower Simcoe is a multi-service agency that offers a variety of activities and services to preschool children and their families, including the EarlyON Child and Family Centres in Barrie, Innisfil, and Bradford. The organization also helps children, teenagers, and adults with intellectual disabilities and believes everyone can contribute to their community.

Their services are available in Barrie, Orillia, Bradford, and nearby townships, and their infant programs are offered throughout the county.

Empower Simcoe receives its funding from the Ministry of Community and Social Services, the County of Simcoe, the United Way, Trillium and donations.

Empower Simcoe employs around 550 full-time and part-time employees, making it one of Simcoe County’s largest employers, and it consists of six administration locations and 41 residential sites.


The Community Changemaker

Dr. Claudine Cousins is a scholar, practitioner, community changemaker, and the Chief Executive Officer of Empower Simcoe. She has over twenty-five years of leadership experience with ministries within the Ontario Public Service and the not-for-profit and profit sectors, including banking and financial services. 

Dr. Cousins has undergone extensive academic training and acquired a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management, Human Resources from Ryerson University, a Master of Arts Degree in Leadership from Central Michigan University, Post Graduate Certificate in Public Relations, and a Ph.D. in Health Care Administration. In addition, she has earned a broad array of executive leadership certifications, propelling her to continue to advocate for those who are marginalized and struggle to be included. 

Since 2012, Dr. Cousins has been working as a sessional instructor at Georgian College and considers learning and development critical to organizational success. She brings outstanding knowledge and expertise from an operations and human resources leadership lens within unionized and non-unionized organizations, along with a drive and passion for achieving business outcomes.

Dr. Cousins has held leadership roles at Christian Horizons, including Executive Director of Central District and Director of Ontario Operations, where she left a legacy of valuing and engaging employees.

She is an ongoing volunteer with the Human Resources Professionals Association’s Regulatory Committee, a member of Lakehead University’s Board of Governors, a champion for Sandbox’s HR CNNX Peer Group, and a Rotarian. 

Dr. Cousins is passionate about social justice issues and their link to business outcomes. She is also a local advocate for equity, diversity, and inclusion and shares her experiences through presentations/speaking events, mentoring, and being a champion for women. As a part of this endeavor, she has participated on several committees, councils, and task groups and is a sought-after speaker and panelist. 

Empower Simcoe believes everyone deserves the opportunity to live a self-fulfilling life. To learn more about their work and initiatives, visit their website at https://www.empowersimcoe.ca/


Small businesses have always been an integral part of community building in Canada. To read more about these businesses, subscribe to CanadianSME Small Business Magazine. For the latest updates, visit our Twitter page at @canadian_sme.

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