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Editorial Support for Children's Aid
October 12, 2009 permalink
Children's aid societies are the greatest danger to the welfare of Ontario's children. Of the parents who have reported their cases to Dufferin VOCA, only about one in 50 have a case where the child benefited from CAS intervention. It is a biased sample, but CAS secrecy ensures that no unbiased data is available from official sources. Unofficial sources show that less than half of children graduating from long-term foster care become well-functioning adults (see also McVicar), and the death rate of children in care of CAS is seventeen times that of children in parental care (or only ten times if you accept the OACAS correction of the numbers). High levels of abuse in foster care are an inevitable consequence of the Cinderella effect.
The recent economic crisis has compelled the government to trim funding for Ontario's children's aid societies. This is the first measure in a decade to improve the condition of children. So what is the political reaction? Leaders of both opposition parties have criticized the reductions, for example Andrea Horwath and Howard Hampton (NDP) or Sylvia Jones (PC). Yesterday the voice of political correctness, the Toronto Star, published an editorial criticizing the cuts, taking the view that more money for children's aid will improve the condition of the province's children. The rank and file readers are not fooled. Scanning the comments shows that most are not fans of children's aid.
A funding crisis at children's aid
October 11, 2009
Children's Aid Societies watch over and care for our most vulnerable children. So when they are warning us that they don't have enough money to do that job, we should all pay attention.
This year, 36 of 51 agencies have asked the province to review their government-allocated budgets. The provincial funding rules now include caps on administration costs and no option for end-of-year top-ups. This "threatens to undermine their capacity to protect children and to meet even the minimum standards," the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies warned Premier Dalton McGuinty in a letter last month.
But newly appointed Children's Minister Laurel Broten says no additional money is coming and agencies must "work within the budget they have."
CAS funding has nearly tripled over the last decade and now stands at $1.4 billion, so it is understandable why the government feels it has already done enough.
Are there efficiencies to be found? Perhaps. But costs have risen in large part due to major reforms mandated by the government, under both Progressive Conservative and Liberal rule. Both have demanded more of agencies and changed the way they operate.
Even opposition critic MPP Sylvia Jones, whose PC party generally accuses the government of overspending and failing to find efficiencies, thinks there is a problem here. Says Jones: "Change their mandate or give them more money."
Tragically, despite all the money that has been spent, we're still largely failing these vulnerable children. Crown wards are less likely to graduate from high school and more likely to rely on social assistance as adults than children raised in stable families.
It is welcome, then, that the latest reforms appear to be helping to reduce the number of children coming into state care by giving better support to troubled families and by accelerating the movement of kids out of state care through adoptions. Ultimately, these initiatives should both improve the outcomes for children and reduce costs.
But it will be years before these results show up on the budget bottom line, and the CAS agencies are warning that the government belt-tightening now threatens to undermine this progress.
Accordingly, the challenge for government and the agencies is not just to take a hard look at what's driving up costs – regulations, the demands of the job or inefficiencies. They must also ensure that funding is clearly focused in ways that improve the lives of children.
This will happen, the government says, through a commission to "promote sustainability" in children's aid societies.
But the commission members have not even been chosen yet, let alone started their work. Already the government seems to have prejudged the outcome by forcing societies to do their job with less than they expected.
On a near daily basis, cabinet ministers talk about "tough decisions" they face due to the economic downturn. But CAS agencies have a statutory obligation to protect children. They can't just stop when their budget runs out. So what should they do?
The government has yet to provide a satisfying answer.
Source: Toronto Star