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1. Program History


The Adult Protective Service Program was established in 1974 following a pilot program called the Hamilton Guardian Project. The Hamilton Guardian Project was initiated primarily to address concerns at that time for the well being of adults who have a DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITY who were capable of living independently in the community, but who lacked typical parental or other social support and guidance.

While Ontario’s early history of developmental services focused exclusively on a medical model in which people with a developmental disability were cared for in large institutional settings, by the late 1960s, the concept of “normalizing” the lives of people who have a developmental disability, and the move to integration into the general community, were gaining worldwide favour.

The introduction of the APSW program followed soon after the enactment of the new Developmental Services Act in 1974 which transferred responsibility for services for people who have a developmental disability from the Ministry of Health to the Ministry of Community and Social Services.

The Minister of Community and Social Services at that time stated that the new legislation would be the first phase of implementing a policy which called for the integration of all programs for people who have a developmental disability and stated the Ministry’s belief that many people who were living in provincially-operated institutions could benefit from living as an integral part of the community. The Ministry stated, “Community participation is the cornerstone on which the philosophy of community care for people [who have a developmental disability] has been established.”

The focus of program development during this time was to enhance the extent of community living opportunities available for people with a developmental disability. Of particular importance during this period was the introduction of programs aimed at improving community supports available to people who have a developmental disability and at promoting as much individual independence as possible. The APSW program can trace its roots to these fundamental milestones in the evolution of developmental services in Ontario.

The Hamilton Guardian Project suggested that the support needs of people who have a developmental disability were largely social and that it was important to establish a service to provide people with social support, guidance and follow-up as an alternative to a more restrictive approach of legal guardianship.

The APSW program was designed to create this alternative by providing direct support to people who have a developmental disability, advocating on behalf of individuals in their efforts to access generic community services and actively promoting the development of expanded community supports.

As the developmental services system evolves, the APSW program and the role of the APSW will continue to evolve with it.


The APSW program is funded under the authority of the Services and Supports to Promote the Social Inclusion of Persons with Developmental Disabilities Act, 2008 (SIPDDA). The SIPDDA gives the Ministry of Community and Social Services the authority to fund specified services and supports or assistance for or on behalf of adults with a developmental disability. APSWs are identified as a Ministry-funded professional and specialized service.

The Developmental Services Act was repealed and its regulation revoked on July 1, 2011.