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Too Much CAS Litigation

October 18, 2009 permalink

The Hamilton Spectator published an article Budget crunch slams CAS on the recent funding cuts, prompting a reply published two days later.



CAS spends too much on litigation

October 16, 2009, Michael P. Clarke, The Hamilton Spectator, Hamilton, (Oct 16, 2009)

Re: 'Budget crunch slams CAS' (Oct. 14)

I have practised family law in Hamilton for more than 20 years. I have participated in dozens of court hearings on behalf of parents subject to "child protection" proceedings. I am always struck by the zeal with which the lawyers for our local Children's Aid Society and Catholic Children's Aid Society fight for what they perceive are the child's "best interests."

Compromise is difficult and inflexibility is the norm. The cases drag on in even the simplest matters. Many colleagues have expressed frustration at how aggressive the local societies have become in prosecuting these cases. There is huge cost to the families (including the children), financially and emotionally.

Their funding issues could be easily met, in my view, if the societies redirected their efforts from prosecution and toward providing real, concrete assistance. Too often, society social workers spend their time drafting affidavits, sitting in court and preparing for litigation instead of in the field, helping families and children in crisis.

Litigating is the most expensive option. It is too often chosen by the societies as the first resort. When I started practising in Hamilton in 1988, there was one lawyer handling all the child protection cases for both societies. Occasionally, a local lawyer was hired to take a trial. Now, there are close to 20 lawyers working for both societies. This shows the emphasis of the societies has been on litigation, not remediation. These lawyers are very good and very expensive.

I suggest that instead of trying to scare the public and policy-makers with threats of "having difficulty responding to high-risk child abuse allegations (unless we get more money)," they should try to manage their budgets more effectively.

Fewer lawyers and more empathetic and caring social workers are the answer.

Source: Hamilton Spectator

Addendum: Hamilton CAS executive director Dominic Verticchio replies. Remember that when he mentions "support" for families, that means surrounding the home with police to take the children. Unless they can take the shortcut of picking them up in school.



Criticism of CAS not merited

Dominic Verticchio
executive director
Children's Aid Society of Hamilton
The Hamilton Spectator

(Oct 20, 2009)

Re: 'CAS spends too much on litigation' (Letters, Oct. 16)

The writer's criticism of the legal aspects of the work of our community's two child-welfare agencies, implying we have an aggressive and inflexible approach resulting in significant, perhaps unnecessary, litigation, is unmerited.

Ontario's child-welfare system has had major changes since 2006. Many people have limited understanding of the CAS's role in preventing circumstances requiring the protection of children. This is a statutory function, and is crucial to help keep families together.

The new model aims to provide safe, stable, family-centred options by keeping children safe with biological and kin families, finding adoptive families when necessary. Staff members spend more time with families and partners to develop plans. The model also requires use of alternate dispute resolution, such as mediation, family group conferences and all-party meetings, before court processes. Where a family's counsel supports these approaches, positive progress can be made and court proceedings are often avoided.

Locally, our society has advocated with the ministry to support families receiving assistance through legal aid to provide access to mediation. And we have directed funding to the development of family group conferencing at Catholic Family Services.

Children's Aid Societies are now beginning to experience the anticipated outcomes of the government's reform agenda, but funding cutbacks threaten to destabilize the improvements.

At Hamilton CAS, we remain committed to managing the use of our resources in the most effective and efficient way possible. That said, we will continue to work with our provincial association to lobby for the resources needed to carry out mandated services for children and families in our community.

Source: Hamilton Spectator