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Auditor Says Some CAS Problems Remain
January 31, 2008 permalink
Ontario's Auditor General produced a follow-up to his report of December 2006 finding widespread problems within children's aid societies. This time he says the superficial problems, such as SUVs for managers, have been fixed, but others, such as insuring that services really get to children, have not. Below is an article from the Toronto Star, and a response from Hamilton East MPP Andrea Horwath, and you can link to the entire report (pdf): Follow-up of 2006 Audits of the Child Welfare Services Program and Four Children’s Aid Societies.
Children's aid system still flawed, auditor says
January 30, 2008, Robert Benzie, Rob Ferguson, Kerry Gillespie, Queen's Park Bureau
The Ontario government is pledging to fix lingering problems at provincial children's aid societies after another probe by Auditor General Jim McCarter.
McCarter concluded there have been improvements since his scathing 2006 investigation, but a follow-up report released yesterday found the Liberal government is still not fairly funding a system that cares for 300,000 children.
"Overall, I'm encouraged by the progress to date," said the auditor general, who originally exposed a litany of problems, including children at risk waiting too long for assessments and shoddy spending controls.
"But there's still more to do to ensure the needs of vulnerable children in Ontario are met," McCarter said in a statement.
The 28-page progress report comes 14 months after the auditor general released a highly critical study of the $1.24 billion CAS system. At the time, he noted in the previous five years CAS spending had doubled while the caseload had only gone up by 40 per cent.
McCarter also disclosed the province was so lax in its monitoring there was no way to know whether children were actually getting the services they needed.
However, senior staffers were enjoying perks like $53,000 SUVs as company cars, a $2,000 executive gym membership and a $2,600 personal trainer.
While yesterday's follow-up report said headline-grabbers like luxury cars for CAS executives have been curbed, there remain systemic funding problems, including:
The government has not yet found a way to make sure "all societies are being funded equitably in accordance with the relative needs of their communities."
Societies have not yet established benchmarks on what makes a "reasonable" caseload of children so that service can be consistent across the province.
There remain "significant differences" in per diem rates paid across the province to providers of foster care and residential care.
The ministry of children and youth services still needs to review its funding formula so that societies, for example, get appropriate provincial financing if they have higher numbers of children with special needs.
In his original report, the auditor general disclosed that Ontario's 53 children's aid societies were paying anywhere from $26 per day for a foster home to $739 for a specialized group home, with little explanation to show why a child deserved one placement over another.
New Children and Youth Services Minister Deb Matthews, who was not in cabinet at the time of the original report, vowed to continue to build on McCarter's recommendations.
"We will continue to look for ways to strengthen the funding model and will continue to work with societies to ensure they are accountable and providing the best possible service in the most efficient manner," Matthews said in a statement.
"We are absolutely committed to supporting children in our care so that they have the opportunity to achieve their full potential. We will continue to ensure that every dollar we provide to societies is spent efficiently."
Matthews noted that in the wake of McCarter's 2006 report, the Liberals created an accountability office to "toughen" enforcement and also imposed controls on travel, procurement and other expenses.
Source: Toronto Star
January 30, 2008
The Hon. Deb Matthews
Minister of Children & Youth Services
14th Floor, 56 Wellesley St. W.
Toronto, ON M5S 2S3
I am writing to seek your support for further action in light of yesterday’s release of the Auditor-General’s follow-up report on making Ontario’s child welfare and protection system more accountable.
As you know, although some progress has been made, the Auditor General noted a number of outstanding concerns that remain unresolved.
One important element that flows by extension from this report is the outstanding need for ombudsman oversight for families who deal with Children’s Aid Societies and wish to have specific decisions and actions revisited and investigated. Ombudsmen from across Canada have been seeking the authority to investigate child welfare concerns since 1984. To date, eight provinces have established independent, investigative offices, empowered and adequately resourced to handle public complaints as they relate to CAS. Regrettably, Ontario is not among them, but that could change with an adequate measure of political will.
When the Legislature returns, I will be reintroducing a private members bill calling for an amendment to the Ombudsman’s Act to open up child welfare and protection issues to Ombudsman Ontario’s scrutiny and jurisdiction. Only the Ombudsman has the legislative tools and mandate, the investigative staff and experience to undertake an effective systemic review of child welfare. My proposed measure would also ensure that families have an unbiased route of appeal when they believe they have been the subject of an unjust or faulty decision.
Mechanisms that your government established to avoid having the Ombudsman involved are inadequate half measures that do not adequately serve the needs of aggrieved families, who contact my office on a near-daily basis. I urge you to use your influence with the Premier and your colleagues and help turn this private bill initiative into a committed government policy measure. Only through ombudsman oversight will the Auditor-General’s objectives of full transparency and accountability be achieved.
I look forward to discussing this matter further and hope for your full support.
(ORIGINAL SIGNED BY MPP HORWATH)
MPP, Hamilton Centre
NDP Critic for Children and Youth Services
date: Wed, 2008/01/30 - 2:00pm
Source: Andrea Horwath