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November 27, 2009 permalink
Ontario has finally appointed the Commission to Promote Sustainable Children’s Aid Societies, originally announced in a letter from Deb Matthews dated June 25, 2009 and put on hold a month later. From the point of view of families the commission membership looks ominous. It is made up of McGill University's Wendy Thomson, an advisor on public service reform for former British Prime Minister Tony Blair; Barry Lewis, an adoptive father and expert in child welfare; and Ene Underwood, a former member of the board of Toronto's children's aid society and an adoptive parent. Two adoptive parents out of three shows a strong bias favoring adoption, while there are no representatives of families receiving "services" or children who grew up in foster care. Has anyone suggested John Dunn?
Ontario names group to help children's aid with funding issues
By Tanya Talaga Health Reporter, 2009/11/26 18:10:41
The provincial government has finally created a long-promised, three-member commission to examine why 49 provincial children's aid societies face a $67 million funding shortfall.
The group will have the power to make changes as they identify them, said Children and Youth Services Minister Laurel Broten. "We need to get the agencies on a sustainable pathway," she said.
Promised five months ago, the commission is made up of McGill University's Wendy Thomson, an advisor on public service reform for former British Prime Minister Tony Blair; Barry Lewis, an adoptive father and expert in child welfare; and Ene Underwood, a former member of the board of Toronto's children's aid society and an adoptive parent.
Progressive Conservative MPP Sylvia Jones (Dufferin-Caledon), who, along with NDP MPPs, has repeatedly questioned the Liberals on the agency funding crisis, said it is amazing it has taken five months to get a commission together.
"Every question we've asked, Broten always responds with, 'We are forming a commission, we are going to study it.' It is unbelievable to me it has taken five months," Jones said.
But for the agencies, the commission is welcome news as some teeter on the edge of bankruptcy, fearing they will not be able to fulfill their legal mandate to care for Ontario's most vulnerable children.
"This is good news. They've been talking about this since June," said Marcelo Gomez-Wiuckstern, communications director for the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies, the umbrella body representing 51 of the province's 53 agencies. "W need an independent body to look at the funding model," he said.
The Liberals have repeatedly said there is no money left in the bank to bail the agencies out as the government struggles with a $24.7 billion deficit.
But agencies argue if they are not helped, they will be unable to meet standards that require them to see children every month, and, case workers will have less time to assess kids safety and well-being.
The York Region Children's Aid Society recently terminated 18 positions, primarily managers and supervisors of front-line staff as they grapple with a $6.6 million deficit and Peel Children's Aid Society is facing a $1.4 million shortfall.
The Peel board of directors has not yet considered layoffs, said executive director Paul Zarnke. "We are one of the lowest funded agencies," Zarnke said. Peel serves 11 per cent of the child population, 330,000 kids, yet only receives 3 per cent of the funding in child welfare, he said.
"We don't have anywhere to make further reductions without impacting frontline service delivery," he said.
Source: Toronto Star
Addendum: Here is the announcement letter from Laurel Broten (pdf) including vitas of the three members. Contrary to our initial note, all three are adoptive parents.