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October 8, 2009 permalink
Two more children's aid societies are complaining about funding cuts. One is in Simcoe County (Barrie), the other is Waterloo region, headed by Peter Ringrose, who declares his willingness to defy the law to keep spending in deficit.
October 08, 2009, By Frances Barrick, Record staff
KITCHENER — The man in charge of looking after Waterloo Region’s neediest children says he is willing to break the law and run a deficit to ensure they are protected.
Peter Ringrose, executive director of Family and Children’s Services of Waterloo Region, said his agency is mandated by the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services to care for vulnerable children.
But the same ministry has cut his budget — and the budgets of 50 other agencies — by a total of $23 million.
Locally, the cut amounts to $171,000.
At the same time, Ringrose said his operating costs have risen by two per cent. The result is a projected deficit of $1.5 million for this year.
“We are being told this year we are not allowed to have a deficit and we must deliver the required services within the budget that the ministry is giving us,” Ringrose said Wednesday. “It is impossible to do that.”
Ringrose said cuts to programs directly affecting children are not an option.
“We are not prepared to go that far. We have a legal mandate to protect children and that is our first and foremost duty,” he said.
The agency has been busier than ever.
“In the last three months, we have seen a significant increase in the number of children coming into our care,” Ringrose said, pointing to family stress caused by the recession as the main culprit.
Currently, the agency has 550 children in care. It receives about 5,000 complaints a year about children being neglected or abused.
Last year, facing a similar funding shortfall, the agency cut two programs and laid off 17 employees.
This year, 13 vacancies at the agency were not filled, and two community-based parenting-skills programs will not be offered this fall to save money.
Ringrose said 36 of the 51 children’s-aid societies in the province are facing deficits. Some are running out of money.
This week, the financial plight of the agencies was raised at Queen’s Park, and Ringrose said the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies has lobbied hard for more money — to no avail.
“The message that we are receiving (from the ministry) is there will be no more money and the agencies will just have to manage,” Ringrose said. “We are in a no-win situation. We are being told to do the impossible.
“The bottom line is we are not going to leave children at risk.”
Source: The Record (Kitchener/Waterloo)
Children’s Aid Society faces $5-million deficit
Author: Frank Matys, Date: Oct 07, 2009
The Children’s Aid Society of Simcoe County will be forced to make “drastic” cuts without an infusion of provincial cash to offset a looming $5-million deficit, says the region’s MPP.
“They are desperate,” said Garfield Dunlop. “The situation is not pretty.”
Dunlop raised the issue with Minister of Children and Youth Services Deborah Matthews in the legislature Tuesday, saying the local operation and others like it are severely underfunded and struggling to cope.
“In Simcoe County, they are doing everything humanly possible to carry out the mandatory programs that your ministry oversees,” he told Matthews.
Thirty-six of Ontario’s 51 Children’s Aid Societies are seeking reviews of their budgets, “an unprecedented number of applications,” according to Dunlop.
Executive director Mary Ballantyne said the area agency has trimmed spending considerably and left some positions vacant when staff members have left.
“We have certainly pulled back our expenses quite significantly, but we have not yet cut right into the direct services with children,” she said. “We are hopeful we can work things out with the government so we can prevent having to do that.”
According to Matthews, the province is spending $1 billion more than it was a decade ago on Children’s Aid Societies.
“That is unsustainable growth,” she said, adding a commission will work to address the funding issue with the aim of ensuring those agencies are sustainable.
“We have hard work ahead of us, and we’ll work in partnership with the CASs to get to where we need to go to have the right services in place for the kids.”
However, Matthews stressed the government would “not be able to support them in the year-end funding that they have become used to receiving over the past many years.”
And that has proved particularly worrisome to Ballantyne.
“In other years, there has been an opportunity, if we have had a deficit, to talk about ways to mitigate that at the end of the year,” she said. “We are finding that to be a challenge this year.”
The Children’s Aid Society and other social agencies are likely to face rising demand as families struggle to cope in a difficult economy, Dunlop predicted.
“Social-service organizations are probably going to have to be propped up now more than ever,” he said.
Added Ballantyne: “So far, we have not had to cut staff or make any cuts that would directly affect children, but certainly much of the agency’s time and energy is (spent) looking at the financial issue.”
The Children’s Aid Society of Simcoe County serves about 12,000 children a year, Ballantyne said.
Source: Midland Mirror