About Us

The China Project
Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto

During the last 30 years, the transition of China's economy from a centralized model to one based on free-market principles has engendered a host of social problems. In many parts of the country, access to housing, health care, education and social services are severely strained. Large-scale urban migration has lead to significant changes in family patterns resulting in mental health issues such as depression, suicide, and addiction.

The University of Toronto's China Project was launched in 1997 by the Faculty of Social Work's Professor Ka Tat Tsang (see enclosed profile). Professor Tsang works to help address these issues by working with Chinese partner institutions to develop programs of social work education in China.

During its first decade, the China Project had produced very positive outcomes, including a first-ever international symposium on social work education in China in 2000, with subsequent publication of proceedings in both English and Chinese. The China Project continued to work on research on social work education in China, developing scholarship programs, encouraging numerous bilateral visits and exchange, publication of indigenized social work texts, conducting direct training of social work educators, and providing consultation support on curriculum development. Through the process of these exciting initiatives, the Project built a strong network of collaborative relationships with Chinese colleagues in universities and colleges, government institutions, and other social service organizations. Current Project partner institutions in China include Peking University, Tsinghua University, Beijing Institute of Technology, and Shandong University.

The Project moved into its second phase in 2005, with a focus on the development of high quality service in different areas of social work practice in China, as well as improving service standards and accessibility for the Chinese communities in Canada. Activities emphasized collaborative research and development, bilateral knowledge transfer, and mutual capacity building. Building on existing collaborative relationships with partners in China, the Project is focusing on a number of initiatives in the areas of health and mental health, public policy, community development, and social work education with an emphasis on practical training.

Recent initiatives include:

In Canada, the Project has been involved with immigrant communities that extend beyond conventional research and scholarship. Close working relationships were formed with multiple community organizations to serve and advocate for immigrants through consultation, training, and service program development. These organizations include ACCESS Alliance, the Alternative Planning Group, Asian Community AIDS Centre, Centre for Information and Community Services, Carefirst Community Services Association, Family Services Association of Metropolitan Toronto, and Yee Hong Centre for Geriatric Care. Together we created innovative service programs to address some of the unmet needs of immigrants and the practitioners who serve them, contributing to improving social services for immigrant communities. The following provides a brief description of some of these initiatives.

Certificate Program in Settlement Practice (since 2008): Based on a learning needs assessment study among settlement workers, a Certificate in Settlement Practice program was designed to be delivered through the Continuing Education Program at the Faculty of Social Work. This program consists of six modules covering core aspects of settlement work, which includes the immigration and settlement process, program development, information and referral, counseling and social skills, working with diverse populations, and advanced electives.

Sexuality and Intimacy Project held at the Yee Hong Centre for Geriatric Care (since 2010): A staff development workshop following Professor Ka Tat Tsang's SSLD model on a much neglected issue of sexuality and intimacy needs of Chinese seniors. Participants learned to translate and present problems related to sexuality and intimacy into an assessment of unmet needs of their clients, and therefore moving away from a pathologizing framework.

Elder Abuse Hotline (since 2004): In response to a study by Carefirst Seniors and Community Services Association, through research collaboration with Sheila Neysmith of our Faculty and one of her doctoral students, a telephone hotline service was developed to address the social isolation and lack of access to transportation that were characteristics of abused seniors.

Chinese Community Service Workers Networking Group (since 2004): A group that brings together the earlier and more recent waves of Chinese immigrant social service workers and recognizes the distinct cultural and social differences of these groups. This group creates a network to share experience, information, and resources, as well as to provide mutual support.

Capacity building among the Asian LGBTQ community in Toronto (1996-2001): In collaboration with the Asian Community AIDS Service (ACAS), the challenge of Asian LGBTQ individuals facing serious language, cultural, and systemic barriers to access services created a need for the development of a peer counselling program. The success of the program led to the establishment of Asian Lesbigay Peer Support Service (ALPSS) and a research grant was received by ACAS in 1999 to research the experience of people with HIV/AIDS.

AMNI (Anti-racism, Multiculturalism and Native Issues) Centre (1995-2008): Profiles of different cultures and countries whose people were represented in Canada were designed and produced for volunteers of HOST programs who orient newcomers to Canada.