Home / About Us / History


CDI officially formed in April 2004, through the voluntary merger of Earlscourt Child and Family Centre and The West End Crèche in Toronto. The two “legacy” organizations each have a proud history of helping children and families and addressing community needs for over 100 years.

Today, CDI is an accredited agency that provides children, youth and families with outcome-based, evidence-informed early learning, child care and mental health services.

1909: The Creche Child and Family Centre established

  • Family Violence Services (preventions against trauma and abuse)
  • Healthy Child Care Development (including family programs, day treatment & childcare services)

1913: Earlscourt Child and Family Centre established

  • Early Intervention; SNAP; residential services

2004: Earlscourt Child and Family Centre & West-End Creche merged into Child Development Institute

2014: CDI amalgamated with Integra Foundation

  • Integra brought in the Learning Disabilities and Mental Health stream

2021: CDI amalgamated with CDI Foundation

  • As of April 1, 2021, Earlscourt-Creche Child Development Institute (the “Organization”) and Child Development Institute Foundation (the “Foundation”) officially amalgamated into one combined entity – Child Development Institute, a Federal Charity.  

2022: Child Development Institute rebranded using its acronym CDI

Detailed History


Child Development Institute (CDI) was officially formed in April 2004, through the voluntary merger of Earlscourt Child and Family Centre and The West End Crèche in Toronto. The two “legacy” organizations each have a proud history of helping children and families and addressing community needs for over 100 years.

Today, CDI is a multi-service organization providing a diverse range of early learning, child care and mental health services to children, youth and their families. We have a strong commitment to responding to the unique needs of the clients we serve and to continuous service improvement through program evaluation, research and training.

CDI is a member agency of the United Way of Greater Toronto, and our government-funded early intervention programs are accredited by Children’s Mental Health Ontario. Additionally, a number of programs within our Child and Youth Mental Health Services and Healthy Child Development Services are licensed by the Province of Ontario and the City of Toronto. CDI receives funding from several levels of government, United Way of Greater Toronto, foundations, service clubs, employee groups, corporations, individuals and through parent fees in our child care centres. All of our programs are focused on strengthening families and promoting healthy child development.

The Crèche Child and Family Centre

The Crèche was established in 1909 by a group from the Anglican Church headed by Gertrude Tate and Mary E. Burton to address the growing need for care and supervision of young children in working families. Serving children under the age of six and their families, The Crèche was one of Toronto’s pioneering daycare centres and played a pivotal role in the early development and formation of child care services. Other programs in the early days included employment programs for women, a well-baby clinic and a children’s milk program. In the 1920s and 1930s, The Crèche developed a strong interest in the psychology of early childhood and hired some of the first mental health professionals. By 1958, the agency had become a centre for autism and other early childhood developmental and mental health disorders. With this experience, The Crèche developed into a full service multi-disciplinary agency in the 1970s, providing clinical services and day treatment for young children, and incorporating a growing emphasis on family work and community-based service provision. During the 1980s, The Crèche also developed increasing expertise in the treatment of childhood sexual abuse. In the 1990s, services to address family violence were developed, and a number of prevention programs were created to augment existing early intervention services. Healthy child development programs were also developed, including three licensed child care centres and several family support programs.

Earlscourt Child and Family Centre

Founded in 1913 by Reverand Peter Bryce, Earlscourt opening was a haven for children unable to remain at home due to dire family circumstances. Rev. Bryce approached the Wimodausis Club,  a service club of young women, for help with looking after the children and fundraising. By the early 1970s, Earlscourt was recognized as a children’s mental health centre and received operational funding from the Ontario government. In 1982, Earlscourt launched Camp Wimodausis, the first Toronto day camp specifically designed for children whose behaviour problems or social circumstances prevented them from attending other day camps. Earlscourt’s Under 12 Outreach Project, established in 1985, became the only sustained intervention in North America for children under 12 in conflict with the law. In 1996, the Girls Connection Program became the first-ever intervention specifically designed for young girls with severe behavioural problems. These two programs later became SNAP® Boys and SNAP® Girls respectively.

In 2001, the Centre for Children Committing Offences was established to share findings, and model interventions and specific techniques, such as SNAP®, nationally and internationally.

Child Development Institute

In April 2004, The Crèche and Earlscourt merged to create Child Development Institute to better serve children and families in Toronto.

In October 2014, CDI and the Integra Foundation amalgamated, bringing together two like-minded, accredited children’s mental health agencies serving children, youth and families in Toronto. The services provided by Integra, which focused exclusively on children, youth and families dealing with mental health issues and learning disabilities (LDMH), complement CDI programming and provide more treatment options for clients with learning disabilities.

CDI now serves over 2,000  children and families year across three streams: Children and Youth Mental Health Services (including Social, Emotional Behavioural Counselling Services; Mental Health and Learning Disabilities (LDMH) Services and Gender-based Violence Support), Early Years and Child Care Services, and Science in Action. Built on a legacy of more than 100 years of helping children and families, we continue to deliver uniquely effective outcomes-based children’s mental health, family violence, early learning and child care services.