Claire Crooks appointed to the Order of Ontario

January 10, 2024

Clinical psychologist, Faculty of Education professor and Centre for School Mental Health director Claire Crooks is seen in this photo from December 2023.

Faculty of Education professor and Centre for School Mental Health (CSMH) director Claire Crooks has been appointed to the Order of Ontario in recognition of the vital role she plays in reducing violence among youth.

Crooks is among 25 new appointees to the Order of Ontario, which signifies the province’s highest civilian honour. An appointment to the Order of Ontario is reserved for those whose extraordinary contributions help build a stronger province, nation and world.

In an announcement shared on Jan. 1, the Government of Ontario praised Crooks as a “groundbreaking clinical psychologist and researcher.”

“She co-developed the ‘Fourth R,’ a relationship-based approach to reducing dating violence and delinquency among youth, a program now in use in thousands of schools throughout Canada and around the world,” the province said.

“She has trained thousands of social workers, mental health professionals and judges and inspired a national movement to address youth mental health.”

Crooks co-developed the original Fourth R alongside professor emeritus Peter Jaffe, adjunct professor David Wolfe and educator Ray Hughes.

In the time since, Crooks oversaw the program’s growth and evolution, eventually earning the 2022 annual WORLDiscoveries Vanguard Innovator of the Year award for her role in developing the Fourth R, and in particular leading the creation of the Healthy Relationships Program.

A small groups offshoot of the original Fourth R, the Healthy Relationships Program adapts the Fourth R for different settings and groups of youth, allowing the program to extend its reach even further.

Crooks says being appointed to the Order of Ontario is a “huge honour.”

“To have this recognition of the work that I have undertaken with fabulous colleagues, students and mentors over the past 20 years just feels terrific,” she added.

Throughout those past 20 years, Crooks has led an illustrious career marked by a tireless dedication to promoting prevention for the sake of youth safety.

While she initially set out to be a therapist, Crooks said she had a change of heart when she was working toward her MA and PhD in clinical psychology at Queen’s University.

“There are so many things that can be prevented if we swim upstream and equip kids, youth, parents, everyone with healthy relationship skills and good boundaries, and then we’re not trying to teach them coping strategies later to deal with the aftermath of violence,” Crooks said.

Thanks to the work of Crooks and her colleagues, countless children now have a chance to grow up in a world where prevention is placed at the forefront of protecting our youth.

“As a parent, I see it when my kids use that language of positive mental health, good coping strategies and effective conflict resolution,” Crooks added.

“The nice thing about those skills is they don’t just prevent violence, they’re linked to all kinds of better outcomes — better mental health, better workplace adjustment, better parenting — these core skills aren’t just for children and youth, they really are the skills that we all need.”

Crooks says there’s a special meaning to be found in the timing of her appointment to the Order of Ontario, which comes only a few months after she was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer. Crooks has since been on a medical leave from her roles at the Faculty of Education and CSMH.

As she looks back on her work, and the prestigious honour that’s been bestowed upon it, Crooks feels assured knowing everything was made possible by a team effort, especially as she faces an uncertain time in her life.

“Getting this award and thinking about all the people I’ve worked with in this area, and how those impacts will continue, just feels very meaningful,” Crooks said.

“Knowing that success doesn’t depend on one person is a really great feeling.”