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Lose Your Job
Lose Your Kids

June 2, 2008 permalink

A downturn for the economy is an upturn for children's aid. Watch out for child snatchers after a layoff.



Bad economy, more kids in care

Poverty puts more stress on family, says CAS head, who fears situation may worsen

Craig Pearson, Windsor Star, Monday, June 02, 2008

The head of the local children's aid society fears the current downturn in the Windsor economy may lead to more children coming into care -- at a time when the agency is already facing a $2.7-million deficit.

Bill Bevan, executive director of the Windsor-Essex Children's Aid Society, said Friday he's concerned that an increase in child apprehensions the last six months -- following three years of decline -- will only continue if the economy continues to weaken.

"This past six months, we were busier with our long-term involvement with families," said Bevan, after meeting with the Star's editorial board. "It just seems to be more than a coincidence that our downturn has occurred and we're seeing more children coming into care."

Bevan listed poverty as one factor, combined with others, that can make coping with children difficult for some families.

"When a family is not doing well economically, then there's more stress in the family," Bevan said. "It just adds so much stress trying to deal with your own issues as an adult. It becomes very complicated to deal with some difficult issues with your own children.

"We never want to take a child into care because the family doesn't have a lot of money. What we realize, though, is families that are poor are over-represented in our workload."

The shrinking manufacturing sector has driven up the unemployment rate in Windsor to among the highest in Canada.

An increase in children in care would come at a particularly bad time for Windsor, given that the local CAS's $2.7-million deficit reflects a common trend across the province.

Kevin Spafford, spokesman for Minister of Children and Youth Services Deb Matthews, said the ministry has increased funding to Windsor by $6.5 million, or 15 per cent, since 2003. In that period, Spafford said Windsor-Essex completed investigations fell 29.7 per cent.

"So they have had funding increases even though their service volume has actually fallen quite a bit," said Spafford, who noted that if the Windsor CAS takes in more children, its funding will increase.

"The funding formula is based largely on service volume."

In the most recent fiscal year, the local CAS spent $52 million, which includes $100,000 on interest costs. The number of children in care is 715, lower than the peak of 850 in 2004-2005, but higher than six months ago.

Staff has increased to 374 from 120 in 1998.

Bevan said costs have increased partly for the same reason children in care have decreased: because the agency is succeeding more with support programs that help keep youngsters at home.

He said staffing and other costs have risen, prevention programs have expanded and the percentage of teens in long-term care has climbed. And teens can cost 10 times more than caring for babies, up to $300 a day compared to $30 for a newborn.

Yet Bevan said prevention can pay dividends. This year, for instance, the Windsor CAS will set a record -- 33 per cent of wards graduating high school will go on to college or university, compared to the provincial average of 11 per cent.

"We teach that if you take care of yourself better, you can study better," Bevan said, noting that solid foster families can make a difference. "One or two people in a youth's life can turn their lives around."

Source: The Windsor Star