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Faculty of Community Services

Kiaras Gharabaghi




416-979-5000, ext. 4812

Email Address:


  • Residential Care and Treatment
  • Social Innovation
  • Organizational Change
  • International Child and Youth Care Practice

My personal biography includes a multi-ethnic, multi-faith heritage, growing up in the midst of a violent revolution, becoming a refugee in Switzerland, settling in Germany as a teenager and experiencing conflict with the law, and ultimately immigrating to Canada to study and start a new life. 35 years later I live on the edge of beautiful Lake Simcoe north of Toronto, watching my three adult or near-adult children determine their life journeys with energy, positivity and creativity. My professional career started before my academic career as a way of financing my pathways through post-secondary education, eventually leading to undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Guelph in Ontario and Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia.

I spent the first 25 years of my professional career working as a practitioner, manager and Director in the social sector. During this time, I worked with young people, their families and their communities in the context of youth justice, child welfare, child & youth mental health and youth homelessness.  Throughout my professional career, my focus was on ensuring that young people and their families encountering services do so with their dignity preserved and their voices at the centre of service delivery. In 2006, I decided to join the School of Child & Youth Care at Ryerson University. Since 2014, I have been the Director of this School. Over the past five years, I have worked to grow the School by expanding the student population, renewing the undergraduate curriculum to reflect the latest research and trends in child and youth care professional practice, championing the establishment of only the second graduate degree program in Child & Youth Care in Canada, and significantly expanding the international opportunities for all of our students through partnerships with universities and NGOs in the Caribbean, Africa, Europe and South Asia. I am also very proud to have contributed, on behalf of the School, to the development of highly diverse and deeply engaged faculty and staff groups.

Since 2012, I have been leading, with my colleague Dr. Melanie Panitch, the development of a Social Innovation infrastructure for Ryerson University. Together we initiated the process by which Ryerson became the first Ashoka Changemaker-designated campus in Canada. We also developed a full Minor in Social Innovation, and together we teach three Social Innovation Courses that attract students from all Ryerson faculties. We have worked tirelessly to embed an interdisciplinary and inter-professional approach to learning at Ryerson, culminating in two highly innovative ‘super-courses’ in partnership with the Ted Rogers School of Management that grouped MBA students with undergraduate students from the Faculty of Community Services (FCS) to explore and ultimately consult on private sector initiatives aiming to contribute meaningfully to community development in Toronto. We also recruited Dr. Aryeh Gitterman, former Assistant Deputy Minister with the Ontario Ministry of Education and later the Ontario Ministry for Children and Youth Services to deliver six-module policy sessions as an extra-curricular learning opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students in FCS. Since 2016, over 400 students have applied to participate in these and we have been able to accommodate nearly 100 of them representing nine different Schools at FCS. In addition, we have been organizing the Community Transformation Café series for faculty and students to intensely engage innovation stories from across the social sectors in the Greater Toronto Area and globally, as well as organizing the FCS in Action conference in 2016 at the height of the Syrian Refugee crisis, which was attended by over 100 people from within and outside of the University.

Today, I champion along with my colleagues Dr. Melanie Panitch from the Office of Social Innovation and Dr. Asher Alkoby from the Ted Rogers School of Management, a five-year project called Social Innovation 4 Social Justice. This project, described in a separate tab, provides students with exceptional experiential learning opportunities that are global in scope but locally relevant, and expands Ryerson’s networks of social sector agencies and organizations around the world.

Research Interests:

My research is focused on several aspects of a core theme: I am interested in the ways young people, their families and communities can reclaim their dignity, their rights, and their voice in their interactions with systems, institutions, and procedures. To this end, I am interested in both ends of that binary: I look at how young people fare in settings such as residential care and treatment, shelters, schools, hospitals and so on; but I also look at how institutions organize themselves and their processes (human resources, training, funding, public relations, growth, etc.) to objectify those they are meant to serve. I am interested in this theme locally and globally, and to that end, I have engaged youth-serving NGOs across Canada, the US, much of Europe, South Africa, Israel, Sri Lanka and elsewhere. In so doing, I always consider issues of racism, ableism, heteronormative thinking and other equity issues and intersections and the ways in which these contribute to marginalizing young people. Ultimately, I am interested in the democratization of the social sector.

In the broader context of youth participation, engagement, entrepreneurship and leadership, my primary research targets are:

  • Residential care and treatment
  • Child welfare & Youth justice
  • Schools & education
  • Process-based approaches that engage marginalized communities
  • Family supporting programs and services
  • International innovations
  • Culture-shaping transformative approaches

I am not a traditional researcher. I believe very strongly that research and practice are not separate undertakings, and that those engaged in research have a responsibility to translate their work into practice-ready ways to engage at all levels of the system-youth relationship. To that end, I contribute regularly and consistently to highly accessible publications, including monthly columns on CYC Net (, quarterly editorials in Child & Youth Services (a journal I co-edit with Ben Anderson-Nathe), and articles, often co-authored with students or young people, in Relational Child & Youth Care Practice.

Current Courses:

Social Innovation 4 Social Justice is a five-year program that seeks to document, narrate and disseminate innovations in the social sectors of large urban areas. Each year we want to publish a coffee table book that features innovations for social justice from social sector agencies in major urban centres around the world. We are interested in innovations that represent new or creative ways of empowering marginalized, stigmatized or otherwise disadvantaged peoples to live their lives well. Social Innovation is not just about responding to problems – it is about increasing social justice in the world around us. We want to focus on several themes each year: spatial and process design, accessibility, community mobilization, governance, inclusion, and social impact sustainability.

Who is Involved?

This program is initiated by the Social Innovation team at Ryerson University in Toronto. We are an urban university located on the Eastside of downtown Toronto, where social organizations are highly active, highly visible and highly engaged. The program is spearheaded by an interdisciplinary team of three people:  Dr. Melanie Panitch, the John C. Eaton Chair of Social Innovation, with a lifelong interest in and commitment to disability communities; Dr. Kiaras Gharabaghi, Director of the School of Child & Youth Care, with a 30 year involvement at all levels of child and youth services ranging from child welfare to youth justice and mental health to street-involvement, and Dr. Asher Alkoby from the Ted Rogers School of Management, a legal scholar with a keen interest in Corporate Social Responsibility and Business and Law Ethics.

Why are we Doing This?

Toronto is a centre for creative and innovative thinking and practice in the social sectors. However, like any other major urban centre, Toronto has given rise to what we call the ‘Toronto Imagination’, which limits our capacity to think beyond the spatial, social, political, economic and cultural context of our city. Learning and growth sometimes require an engagement of the unfamiliar. This is why we want to partner with service providers across major urban centres around the world to document and narrate social innovations for social justice that unfold outside of the Toronto Imagination!

How are Students involved?

At Ryerson, we pride ourselves on providing students from all disciplines an opportunity for experiential learning – this means learning in the field, from people actually doing the work, doing the thinking, and engaged with real people in real life. To this end, we will have a team of 20 students each year, graduate and senior undergraduate, from disciplines such as Child & Youth Care, Social Work, Nursing, Business, Graphic Design and Journalism, who will be working to document and narrate social sector innovations. They will connect with service providers, visit any innovation for social justice, take pictures, and then talk with service leaders, staff and the people using services about how this innovation is impacting on communities in real time.

What’s in it for Service Providers?

Your innovations should not be invisible! For everything you do well, someone else is trying to do well but not succeeding. If we can share what is innovative, others don’t have to reinvent the wheel and more people can benefit from your great ideas and your experiences in operationalizing great ideas. Additionally, the coffee table book provides you with a way of telling your funders that your work is recognized by others, featured by others, and known to others all over the urban world! It is another way of connecting people with similar interests. We hope that people see each other’s great work and begin to connect with one another!

What we Absolutely Will Not Do!

We believe that people are the experts of their own lived experiences. And we believe that we are not well positioned to offer solutions in spaces that are new to us. Therefore, we will not offer advice, judgment, solutions or critiques of what you are doing in your context with the people connected to you. We will document and narrate your stories, and let these speak for themselves.

Our Values

All of us have worked in social sectors, and all of us are engaged in our respective communities. We understand that the world we strive for is not the world we live in right now. We know that there is racism and white privilege; we know that people who identify as LGBTQ2s++ face challenges in formal systems; we know our institutional structures contain biases; we know that disability continues to be seen through the lens of medical models; we know that harm reduction still meets a great deal of scepticism. Our values are simple: We want to contribute in a meaningful way to the process of ‘undoing’ that which promotes marginalization and building communities that celebrates the many different ways of being in this world through a commitment to inclusion and equity at all levels all the time.

Selected Publications:

Recent Books

Gharabaghi, K. (2019). A Hard Place to Call Home: A Canadian Perspective on Residential Care and Treatment. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press.

Gharabaghi, K., & Charles, G. (2019) (Eds). Child and Youth Care Across Sectors, Volume 1. Toronto: Canadian Scholar’s Press.

Gharabaghi, K. (2014). Writing Child and Youth Care. Cape Town, South Africa: CYC-Net Press.

Gharabaghi, K., Skott-Myhre, H. & Krueger, M. (Eds.) (2014).  With Children and Youth:  Emerging Theories and Practices in Child and Youth Care.  Waterloo, Ontario:  Wilfrid Laurier University Press.

Gharabaghi, K. & Stuart, C.  (2013). Right Here, Right Now:  Life-Space Intervention in Child and Youth Care Practice.  Toronto & New York: Pearson Press.

Steinebach, C. & Gharabaghi, K. (Eds.) (2013). Resilienzförderung im Jugendalter.  Berlin:  Springer  International.

Selected Chapters and Articles

Gharabaghi, K. (2018). Friends Matter, Even in Residential Care. In D. Suess (Ed.), Festschrifft fur Christoph Steinebach. Frankfurt, Germany: Springer (in press).

Garfat, T., Freeman, J., Gharabaghi, K., & Fulcher, L. (2018). Characteristics of a relational child and youth care approach. CYC On-Line, Issue 236 (October).

Gharabaghi, K. (2018). Preface. In L. Fulcher, & T. Islam (Eds.), Residential Care in Developing Countries – Middles East and Asia (pp. 1-4). Cape Town, South Africa: CYC Net Press.

MacKinlay, C., & Gharabaghi, K. (2018). An Indigenous Perspective on Residential Care in Ontario from the First Person Narrative of a CYC Practitioner and Former Crown Ward. In K. Shaw, & J. McGrath (Eds.), Residential Care in Canada. Cape Town, South Africa: CYC Net Press (in press).

Gharabaghi, K. (2016). External Models of Supervision. In G. Charles, J. Freeman, & T. Garfat (Eds.), Supervision in Child and Youth Care Practice (pp. 95-104). Cape Town, South Africa:  CYC Net Press.

Gharabaghi, K. (2016). Networked transitions: Ensuring continuity of care for young people from intake to emerging adulthood. Relational Child & Youth Care Practice, 29 (1), 51-60.

Zeller, M., & Gharabaghi, K. (2014). Anders und doch aehnlich: Aktuelle Trends in der Heimerziehung in Kanada/Ontario [Different and still similar: Current trends in residential care in Canada/Ontario]. Forum Erziehungshilfen, 20 (3), 179-184.

Rabley, S., Pryde, M., & Gharabaghi, K. (2014). A survey of adolescents’ perceptions of their relationships with nonparental caregivers in group home settings: An attachment perspective. Children & Youth Services Review, 40, 61-70.

Gharabaghi, K., & Stuart, C. (2014). Life-space intervention: Implications for care-giving.  Scottish Journal of Residential Care, 12 (3).

Gharabaghi, K. (2013).  Becoming present:  The use of daily life events in family work.  Relational Child & Youth Care Practice, 26 (2).

Stuart, C., & Gharabaghi, K. (2013).  Defining personalized service delivery.  Relational Child & Youth Care Practice, 26 (1).

Gharabaghi, K. (2012).  Translating evidence into practice:  Supporting the school performance of young people living in residential group care in Ontario.  Children & Youth Services Review, 34, 1130-1134.

Selected Research Reports

Gharabaghi, K., Trocme, N., & Newman, D. (2016). Because Young People Matter. Final Report of the Residential Services Expert Review Panel, submitted to the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services.

Gharabaghi, K. (2013).  Supporting Education in Foster Care.  A position paper submitted to the British Columbia Ministry of Child and Family Development.

Gharabaghi, K. (2013).  Life-space Intervention with Young People in Foster Care.  A position paper submitted to the British Columbia Ministry of Child and Family Development.

Gharabaghi, K., & Robinson, L. (2012).  Avalon:  A Blueprint for Change.  A report submitted to the Central West Office, Ministry of Children & Youth Services & Avalon Youth Treatment Services.

Stuart, C., & Gharabaghi, K. (2012).  Personalized Service Delivery:  A Synthesis of Opportunity and Challenges.  Research Report submitted to the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services.

Gharabaghi, K. (2011).  Supporting the Education of Young People Living in Residential Group Care in Ontario.  Synthesis report submitted to the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services.

Recent Editorials

Gharabaghi, K., & Anderson-Nathe, B. (2018). Dismantling children’s rights in the global North. Child & Youth Services, 39 (1), 1-4.

Gharabaghi, K., & Anderson-Nathe, B. (2018). In a world of ‘us’ and ‘them’: The case against intervention-focused research. Child & Youth Services, 39 (2), 104-107.

Gharabaghi, K., & Anderson-Nathe, B. (2017). Troubling the emergent pathology of complexity. Child & Youth Services, 38 (4), 269-271.

Gharabaghi, K., & Anderson-Nathe, B. (2017). Strength-based research in a deficit-oriented context. Child & Youth Services, 38 (3), 177-179.

Gharabaghi, K., & Anderson-Nathe, B. (2017). The need for critical scholarship. Child & Youth Services, 38 (2), 95-97.

Anderson-Nathe, B., & Gharabaghi, K. (2017). Trending rightward: Nationalism, xenophobia and the 2016 politics of fear. Child & Youth Services, 38 (1), 1-3.

Gharabaghi, K., & Anderson-Nathe, B. (2016). The fortress of school. Child & Youth Services, 37 (4), 301-303.

Gharabaghi, K., & Anderson-Nathe, B. (2016). In search of leadership. Child & Youth Services, 37 (3), 211-214.

Recent Keynotes

Gharabaghi, K. Residential Care and Treatment in Ontario. Key Note delivered to Windsor-Essex Children’s Aid Society, Windsor, Ontario, January 2018.

Gharabaghi, K. Foster Care in Ontario. Key Note delivered to North Eastern Family and Children’s Services, Timmins, Ontario, September 2017.

Gharabaghi, K. Be Quiet, Be Good. Key Note delivered to Grey Bruce Children’s Aid Society, Owen Sound, Ontario, December 2017.

Gharabaghi, K. Enriching the Quality of Care for Young People in Care. Key Note delivered to the Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Hamilton, Hamilton, Ontario, November 2017.

Gharabaghi, K. We Matter! Junge Menschen Wollen Wichtig Sein. Key Note delivered to the International Community of Family Assistance, Dortmund, Germany, September 2017.

Gharabaghi, K. We Matter! Listening to the Voices of Children and Youth. Key Note delivered to the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies, Directors Annual Retreat, Hockley Valley, Ontario, September 2017.

Gharabaghi, K. Towards a Culture of Excellence in Child Welfare. Key Note delivered to the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies, Executive Directors and Board Chairs retreat, Toronto, Ontario, December 2016.

Gharabaghi, K. Towards a Culture of Quality in Residential Care and Treatment. Key Note delivered to Ontario Association of Residences Treating Youth, Mississauga, Ontario, June 2016.

Gharabaghi, K. Last Resorts. Key Note delivered to the National Child and Youth Care Conference, Halifax, Nova Scotia, May 2016.

Gharabaghi, K. Whose System is This? Key Note delivered to the Ontario Residential Care Association – Child Welfare Conference 2016, Richmond Hill, Ontario, April 2016.

Gharabaghi, K. A Transition to Nowhere in Particular. Key Note delivered to FICE International and the Global CYC Conference, Vienna, Austria, August 2016.

Professional Affiliations:

Graduate Courses:

CY 8001  Child and Youth Care Theory

CY 8005  International Child & Youth Care Practice

Social Innovation, theory and practice (course taught for Institute for Social and Organizational Pedagogy, University of Hildesheim, Germany)

Mixed graduate and undergraduate:

DST 503 Exploring Social Innovation (with Melanie Panitch & Asher Alkoby)

CYC 805 Transformative Community Innovation and Sports Marketing (with Melanie Panitch & Asher Alkoby)


Keys to Success        

Course taught for University of Nipissing (2006-2009)

CYC 201          Child Abuse & Neglect

CYC 30A/B      Internship 1

CYC 347          Professional Issues 1

CYC 601          Social Research Methods

CYC 847          Professional Issues 2

CYC 900          Diversity Issues for Children and Youth

CYC 60A/B      Internship 2

CYC 48A/B      Independent Studies

CYC 518          Independent Reading

CYC 550          Foundations of Social Innovation

CYC 560          Social Innovation in Practice

CYC 570          Social Innovation in Action

Position Currently Held:

Director and Associate Professor, School of Child and Youth Care, Interim John C. Eaton Chair in Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Faculty of Community Services

Social Innovation 4 Social Justice

Contact details

Office details

  • SHE-641, Sally Horsfall Eaton Centre for Studies in Community Health

Administrative Coordinator

Program Assistant