Towhee was established in 1968 as the original project of the Integra Foundation, which, in April 1971, became a licensed children’s mental health centre.

In October 2014, Child Development Institute and the Integra Foundation amalgamated, bringing together two like-minded accredited children’s mental health agencies serving Toronto children, youth and families. Towhee is now delivered by Child Development Institute’s Integra Program.

The original motivation and philosophy behind Integra and Towhee stemmed from the experience of parents, teachers and other professionals in the field of learning disabilities who believed that such children might respond favourably to an enriched learning experience in a residential setting. As many of these children were not capable of functioning successfully in a non-specialized setting, Towhee was specifically designed to accommodate such individuals and to foster social development in a “special” setting.

Originally a six-week residential treatment program, Towhee attempted to address social and emotional problems in children with learning disabilities between the ages of 8 and 12. Towhee’s early treatment objectives focused on change in key areas of social and emotional development for participants including intrapersonal, interpersonal, social cognitive and social affective.

The Towhee Program has evolved over the last 50 years to meet the changing needs of children and adolescents with learning disabilities and mental health issues (LDMH). Adventure based/experiential learning is now an integral part of the program, while traditional outdoor activities and programs have remained a constant.

In 1998, Towhee changed the structure of its program and expanded to serve a larger and broader client population. Today Towhee provides two and three week residential therapeutic programs for 10 to 18-year-old participants. These changes were driven by our past successes with adolescents at Towhee, and the changing needs of our younger participants.  Although the Towhee program has evolved and changed over the years, the basic objectives of the program remain the same.

We strive to see improvement in participants in one or more of the following areas:

  1. Increased Social Competence, including
    1. Social adjustment
      Emotional (e.g., depression, anxiety, managing feelings)
      Relational (e.g., friendships, peers)
    2. Social performance
      Behaviours (e.g., less “inappropriate,” more cooperative, etc.)
    3. Social skills
  2. Decreased sense of isolation (i.e., not feeling that they are the “only one”)
  3. Increased self esteem and confidence