Rocco Gizzarelli, the retiring executive director of Hamilton’s Catholic Children’s Aid, right, with Hamilton Bishop Douglas Crosby. Photo courtesy Hamilton CCAS

Gizzarelli put the Catholic into children’s aid

By 
  • March 24, 2022

Rocco Gizzarelli has been around long enough that he can remember the Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Hamilton’s days using touch-tone, table-top phones with flashing red lights and pink message slips.

With cell phones now the norm, and other technological advances, Gizzarelli has seen plenty of societal changes in his decades-long career in child welfare.

The executive director of the Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Hamilton is bringing his career to an end after 36 years of service. The journey, he says, has been a rewarding one and a privilege.

“From (the times of) typewriters to computers, I’ve witnessed a lot of change through the years and the work has been rewarding,” said Gizzarelli. “I see it as a vocation. It really became a part of who I was. I’m glad to have supported the children, youth and families in the best way that I could.”

Gizzarelli’s accomplishments over the years are many, not least having led the organization through training and professional development and understanding of mission work from a Catholic point of view. This includes the promotion of a faith-based organizational culture, developing a faith statement, installing a chapel in the CCAS offices and implementing a leadership development program.

He’s not forgotten the children in these endeavours and has been recognized in the community for his strong advocacy of equity and social justice to ensure better outcomes for marginalized and racialized members of the community. He’s been actively involved in fostering and developing collaborative partnerships with several diverse agencies to strengthen the circle of care to marginalized children, youth and families in the Hamilton region.

Gizzarelli has been recognized for his leadership in implementing many initiatives and programs such as addressing the needs of homeless youth, implementation of a French-language services model in the Hamilton-Niagara child welfare agencies, French-language designation for the agency and several child welfare community-based partnerships within the Hamilton community.

Continuing to work in the office throughout the pandemic, it’s been quite the two years filled with plenty of learning, pivoting and adjustments. Though the past two years have been challenging, he’s not lost site of prioritizing the community and seeking ways to best meet the needs of the marginalized.

“I believe in innovation and looking for opportunities to better the way we serve,” said Gizzarelli. “It’s not easy work that we’re doing. It’s complex, it’s challenging and the families need us.”

Most recently Gizzarelli served as a bishop’s delegate in the safeguarding protocol working with the Hamilton diocese addressing cases of sexual misconduct. The initiative is designed to aid the diocese in safeguarding vulnerable individuals and responding swiftly and appropriately to allegations of sexual misconduct in the diocese.

“We offer you our deepest thanks, Rocco, for providing a foundation from which we will strive to continue your inspiring legacy,” said David Hennick, CCAS Hamilton board chair.

While not coming into the office every day after so many years will be an adjustment, Gizzarelli said he will always hold the agency in his heart and support it from the outside in any way he can. He is currently in a transition period until June. Over this period the board is on a search for his successor. A board of directors committee will oversee the process and has hired an executive search firm to assist with the transition.

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