In 2014, Kelly Stone transformed a decaying national charity into Families Canada—the go-to place for those who work with vulnerable families. Now President and CEO, Kelly is steering Families Canada through a full digital transformation. In addition to a long career in public service centering around the rights and welfare of children, Kelly acknowledges her duty as an influential woman in business and works hard to offer other women starting out the opportunities and tools to reach senior levels of management.

When Kelly Stone assumed the leadership role of a national charity, she was confronted with an institution that had seen very little development since its inception in the seventies. With a weak business infrastructure, minimal digital engagement, staff lacking the right skills and a board that had disengaged, the charity presented Kelly with a size-able rescue operation.

Not to be deterred, Kelly took on the challenge, recruiting interns, drafting a priority-driven business plan, establishing a digital presence, and launching a social enterprise. By 2016, the regeneration of the organization revealed the new Families Canada.

A national charitable association of family support centres, Families Canada has a network of more than 500 member agencies and thousands of frontline family support practitioners who provide hubs of free services, programs, and resources to low-income and disadvantaged families across Canada.

With over forty-five years of experience and a strong staff team, Families Canada supports organizations dedicated to strengthening families by promoting the rights and interests of children and their families. Kelly has leveraged her professional network to bring together funders and partners to turn the best of social and health science into practice. As a result of Kelly’s exceptional and devoted leadership, Families Canada is once again the go-to place for those who work with vulnerable families.

Kelly’s legacy lessons about resilience under stress, risk management and thinking out of the box came from her role in the aftermath of the 2001, 9/11 terrorist attack. As part of the Government of Canada’s response team, Kelly’s functions evolved from protecting Canadians to aligning with international legislative obligations, earning Kelly the Head of the (Canadian) Public Service Award. The lessons she learnt during 2001 have stayed with her even today, as she says, “changing the engines while keeping the airplane flying is not easy for any organization nor leader. It takes determination, funds and nerves of steel.”

This mentality has remained consistent throughout her career, in which many years were spent taking on responsibility for public policy regarding child well-being and several Canada-wide children’s programmes. Kelly also worked internationally in the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), in which she worked with international partners to institute a children’s rights approach to state legislation, public policy and on-the-ground initiatives, implementing strategies concerning issues such as identity, health, education and child trafficking. Kelly remains committed to her efforts for the UNCRC and aspires to see governments and NGOs unite to better support marginalized children and communities.

Kelly is also a fierce advocate for the promotion of young women in business, recognizing her influence and using it. “Female Execs need to reach down and pull up competent women and take responsibility for advancing diversity,” says Kelly. Female executive sponsorship is an undervalued leadership quality and something that everyone benefits from, as businesses profit from the fresh perspectives of young people in return for exposure to business realities. Strong business practices such as these are essential for sustainability, and as such, Kelly promotes recruitment of corporate sector women onto her own Board. “Families Canada benefits from their professional expertise, and they gain valuable Board experience.”

Even throughout the global pandemic, Families Canada has stayed strong under the conscientious leadership of Kelly and her team. Focusing on remaining visible and relevant, Families Canada is continuing its digital transformation, whilst looking to corporate partners and all those who can lend their voice, a hand or even financial support to the organization. Thriving on the pressure to reinvent and develop, Families Canada remains a success story in its constant ability to pivot and innovate, ensuring that members always get the help they need to serve vulnerable families.

For more information, please contact Kelly Stone at Families Canada.

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