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Apprenticeship for Crime
March 7, 2007 permalink
A report acquired by the CBC says that Ontario's children's aid societies act as apprenticeship programs for criminal behavior. No one will dare suggest correcting the problem by leaving children with mom and dad. Instead, we can soon expect calls for more money for CAS to improve group homes.
Kids see group homes as 'gateways to jail': child advocate
Almost half of Ontario's young offenders in detention for minor crimes came through the child welfare system, a report from the Office of Child and Family Service Advocacy shows.
The trend is a concern for child advocates across the country and Ontario Child Advocate Judy Finlay said many of the province's young people are beginning to think of group homes as "gateways to jail."
"We're taking them out of very difficult family circumstances, bringing them into state care and then we're charging them for their behaviour. It's very concerning to me," Finlay said.
The report, which was obtained by CBC News, lays much of the blame on group homes that rely too heavily on police to resolve problems that could be handled by staff.
Kids have been charged for everything from refusing to read a book or hitting someone with a tea towel, Finlay said.
One group home in Ontario called police 400 times in a single year.
Ontario is not the only province that needs to fix the system, the report says. A sampling of facilities across Canada found that 57 per cent of young offenders had a connection to the child welfare system, the report said. In British Columbia, a recent study put that number at 73 per cent.
While some teens acknowledge the more serious charges may be warranted, they complain that too often, staff lack the training to deal with troubled kids and resort to calling police.
One teen, who can't be named under federal law, said workers would often provoke him. After he was charged, group home workers had an easy way to threaten him by suggesting a breach of his bail or probation conditions would mean a return to a young offenders facility.
"They threaten you and say you better read that book or you're going back to jail. Come on, what kind of system is this?" the teen said.
Finlay is calling on the province to collect data on police calls from group homes and the charges that result. She also wants to see a mental health worker attached to each group home and higher standards for an industry that costs taxpayers more than $200 million a year.
Addendum: Here is the start of a comment on this subject by Carolyn Buck, Executive Director of Toronto Children's Aid:
The most recent aggregate provincial data shows that 15% of Crown wards under CAS’ care in Ontario were charged under the Young Offender Act, now the Youth Criminal Justice Act. This is not the overwhelming majority as some critics report.
Young people come to us with an array of difficult experiences. The scars left by the trauma of abuse go well beyond skin deep and unspeakable acts leave indelible impressions at the most vulnerable time in human development.
Source: Toronto Children's Aid
This drivel requires us to go back to elementary arithmetic. Judy Finlay divided the number of young offenders with CAS cases by the number of young offenders (almost 50%), Carolyn Buck divided it by the number of crown wards (15%). Of course the results are different. You are not lying, Mrs Buck, you are just trying to fool us.
The second paragraph goes on to blame the failings of children in care on the parents they were taken from. If that is so, why is the death rate in foster care five times as high as parental care? The most common cause of foster death for young children is "battered". How do parents batter their kids in far-away foster homes? There are indeed unspeakable acts that leave indelible impressions on children, but they come from the child protection system itself.