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CAS Criticizes Elman
March 6, 2009 permalink
Ontario's children's aid societies are striking back at the critical report by Irwin Elman. We enclose two replies, one from the website of Toronto Children's Aid, the other from the press. Both take the view that Mr Elman made errors, and both suggest that he replace his report with one that is factually correct. No part of the children's aid bureaucracy has offered to supply better data to Mr Elman, who has until now been frozen out of internal reports.
The figure of 90 deaths comes from the Report of the Paediatric Death Review Committee and Deaths Under Five Committee by the Office of the Chief Coroner Province of Ontario June 2008. It reports 90 deaths with CAS involvement, without defining that involvement. Page 56 says cryptically: "4 of the 37 children were in the care of a CAS – 3 of 4 children were Crown Wards". Four foster deaths is miraculously low. Until we see better data, Mr Elman's assertion that all 90 are foster deaths is the more credible version.
If, as Mr Elman's critics claim, in 36 cases CAS got involved only after fatal injury, that still makes foster care ten times as dangerous as parental care. Children's aid cannot release real numbers because they would look like death camps.
Update to Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth’s Annual Report
Inside Queen’s Park is the premier insider newsletter on Ontario government and politics. The lead article in the March 4, 2009 edition was a review of the report from the Office of Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth entitled, 90 Deaths: Ninety Voices Silenced. That review is posted below.
CUTTING EDGE: UNLEASHING MORAL PANIC
Ombudsman André Marin’s steady flow of systemic reports are strongly worded and cleverly packaged for maximum media impact. His detractors in government seethe unhappily when Marin unleashes yet another punishing expose, but they’ve learned that his assertions are factual and numbers cannot be dismissed. Marin is bullet-proof because he’s seen as very tough but fair. Children’s Advocate Irwin Elman took one leaf from Marin’s book, getting headline coverage for 90 Deaths Ninety Voices Silenced – his luridly-titled first annual report, tabled Feb. 23. But far from presenting an Ombudsman-style unimpeachable case, Elman misrepresented key facts and made assertions that were flat-out untrue respecting central issues. IQP can’t recall any formal report with comparable deficiencies from an Officer of the Legislature.
The Advocate’s narrative, with new-ish Children’s minister Deb Matthews blocking his office in its bid for broader access to records of vulnerable children, was swallowed whole by reporters. They also bought his chilling picture of 90 children in the system whose ‘voices’ had been silenced.
OACAS, the umbrella body which speaks for the local societies, sent a letter to all MPPs (pdf) on Feb. 26 impugning the report for its misleading claims and false contentions. It confronts Elman’s central claim that the 90 children “died while in the care of Children’s Aid Societies (emphasis added); this is not true”. Rather, the 90 deaths were reported for review by CASs (emphasis added). The letter also rejects his statement that “most of the deaths” were preventable: of the 90, natural causes took 14 and the CAS had no prior involvement with 36 of them. 50 of 90 is 55%; that means it was clearly impossible for the CAS to prevent “most” of the 90 deaths.
Moreover, it was investigators within the Coroner’s Office reviewing paediatric deaths, the prime source of Elman’s report, who declared that CAS involvement “is not a factor” in the “vast majority of child deaths in Ontario” and cautioned that most of the few deaths of children receiving CAS services “could not have been foreseen or prevented by a CAS”. With no factual basis for Elman’s charges, the verdict must be: Not guilty.
The looming recession will sharply increase already bulging CAS caseloads. The sector groans under province-wide deficits of $14M-plus and operating cost pressures have prompted 19 societies to seek ministerial reviews. This is the very worst time for Elman to provoke a moral panic by misrepresenting numbers and misstating the facts. The effect will be to undermine public confidence, incline people to think twice before reporting suspicions and discourage parents needing help from approaching the CAS. Worse yet, Elman’s grossly exaggerated death toll will cause vulnerable children in care to fear for their lives.
Elman came to the Advocate’s position with a stellar record in caring for children; to avoid totally exploding that reputation, he urgently needs to make amends for the clumsy and irresponsible elements in 90 Deaths. He should apologize to the CAS community and withdraw that report for a thorough re-write. Then Elman should silence his own voice while working to re-establish his credibility. Reading the collected reports issued by Ombudsman Marin would be a good first step.
Source: Toronto Children's Aid
Report inaccurate: CAS
AGENCY: Blamed for 90 children's deaths
Posted By W. BRICE MCVICAR THE INTELLIGENCER, Posted March 6, 2009
The Hastings Children's Aid Society is adding its voice to a growing cacophony of opposition from other societies across Ontario after a damning report was filed last month by the province's new child advocate.
Irwin Elman's report, titled 90 Deaths, 90 Voices Silenced, claims 90 children in the care of Childrens' Aid Societies in Ontario died in 2007. That number, members of the local CAS said during Thursday's board meeting, is greatly exaggerated.
Mark Kartusch, director of service for the Hastings CAS, said the report is the first issued by Elman and needs to be re-evaluated.
"It's especially disturbing," he told the board. "We don't want to lose sight of the tragedy of a child dying but we need to focus on how this report is being presented."
Len Kennedy, executive director for the Hastings CAS, said the report indicates all 90 of those children were in the care of CAS at the time of their deaths but that is not the case. Some of those deaths had no relation to CAS until societies' became involved after the child died. In other instances, the deaths were not preventable.
"In fact, the information disseminated with (the report) describes these deaths as children in care when, in fact, only a handful of those children were in care and none of those deaths were preventable," he said.
He said it is regrettable that the document creates an impression that all 90 of the deaths reported in the document are connected to children in the care of CAS. The deaths were all reviewed and investigated by the pediatric death review committee of the provincial coroner's office.
Those procedures, he said, are very thorough.
"A good number of these deaths came to the attention of the Children's Aid Society at the time of the child's death, some were reported by a hospital and some had no involvement whatsoever with the society," Kennedy stressed. "We feel, as an agency and as a field, that it's misleading. It's not helpful to our situation for that to be represented and, in fact, it could cause both children who are in care and their families, potentially, to be worried."
Kennedy said the local CAS will be writing a letter to the child advocate voicing its concern and requesting the report be withdrawn and be replaced by one factually correct.
Source: Belleville Intelligencer