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February 14, 2010 permalink

Ontario's efforts to restrain children's aid by cutting their budgets have ended in total surrender by Minister of Children and Youth Services Laurel Broten. Children's aid societies across the province are getting immediate supplementary funding of $27 million.



Ontario throws children's aid $27M lifeline

Agencies watching over most vulnerable kids get money to put them 'on stable footing'

Published On Sat Feb 13 2010

Payukotayno James and Hudson Bay Family Services
Payukotayno James and Hudson Bay Family Services received $2.3 million, allowing the agency to stay open until the end of March 2010 after 120 staff faced layoffs due to lack of funding. (Dec. 9, 2009)

By Tanya Talaga Queen's Park Bureau

Ontario's cash-strapped children's aid societies will get a $26.9 million bailout to keep the agencies afloat until the next fiscal year.

Children and Youth Services Minister Laurel Broten told the Star 26 of 53 provincial societies will receive the money immediately to "put them on a stable footing."

"This infusion of money is a direct response to my commitment that we will not put kids at risk."

An announcement is expected Monday.

For the last few months, Broten has insisted the agencies must cut costs and find ways to get on a more solid financial footing as the province battles a $24.7 billion deficit.

Children's aid societies have argued the funding they receive is based on outdated projections and say if they are not given more, services for Ontario's most vulnerable kids will be reduced.

Last year, the Ministry of Children and Youth Services established a three-person committee of experts to examine why the agencies continue to have money problems at the same time each year and whether the current funding model is working.

"You can't solve these issues in the 11th month of the fiscal year," Broten said.

"We've assessed these funds are needed."

Without proper funding, the agencies warn they will not be able to meet the mandatory standards of seeing children every month, and case workers will assess children's safety and well-being less frequently.

Of the $26.9 million, $2.5 million is earmarked for First Nations children's aid societies in order for them to handle fiscal pressures other agencies do not face – such as high travel costs to get to at-risk kids in fly-in communities, and the exorbitant cost of living expenses in the North.

In December, the Star reported on the teen suicide epidemic plaguing the communities around the James Bay basin. Last year, 13 First Nations youth committed suicide, all by hanging.

The children's aid society in Moosonee – Payukotayno James and Hudson Bay Family Services – has struggled to cope with the suicide crisis while under constant threat of bankruptcy.

Broten came to the aid of Payukotayno in late December, giving it $2.3 million in emergency funding.

The agency's credit line was maxed out and pink slips had been sent to all 120 staff members. The funding bridged the agency until March.

"There are also broad, big, complicated issues we need to continue to work on with these (children's aid societies) and that is why these funds have been allocated," Broten said.

However, the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies say 49 of their agencies were experiencing a $67 million funding shortfall.

Some of the $26.9 million will go to the York Region Children's Aid Society, which faced a $6.6 million projected deficit and cut 18 positions last year. The Simcoe County agency will also receive funding.

By law, the agencies are mandated to protect children, investigate allegations of abuse and neglect, and provide care and adoption services.

Source: Toronto Star

Addendum: Not enough! Give us more! The report describes CAS activities as: "ongoing services such as home counselling and social workers helping to establish plans with other service providers which intervene in the need for residential child care". It never mentions separating parents and children by force of arms.



Provincial funds not enough: CAS

DEFICIT: Share of funding falls short


NORTHUMBERLAND -- Their share of the provincial government's one-time funding announcement of $27-million to Ontario's Children's Aid Societies is not enough to keep the Northumberland Children's Aid Society out of a deficit situation this year. Nor is it enough to pay off the cumulative debt since 2005, says its chief executive officer, Rosaleen Cutler.

The local CAS's projected deficit to fiscal year end March 31, 2010 is still about $550,000 more than the $279,000 in one-time funding announced by Children and Youth Services Minister Laurel Broten last week.

In addition, the cumulative debt 2005-8 adds another $551,000 to the total $1.1-million debt of the local Children's Aid, Cutler said.

This year's anticipated deficit is due to two factors, she said.

The local CAS is providing 10 fewer families each month with ongoing services such as home counselling and social workers helping to establish plans with other service providers which intervene in the need for residential child care. Although the number of investigations and referrals has remained constant year over year -- about 175 cases -- earlier intervention in this way is reducing the length of time the services are needed. It is also keeping the average number of those in residential care to about 100 monthly.

The new system shows the benefits of a community-based plan, but the funding formula penalizes the local CAS, and that is the reason it requested a Section 14 review last year. The results of the review are anticipated in a "couple of weeks," Cutler said.

The local CAS has asked for funding changes that would wipe out past deficits and this year's as well.

In addition, the Child Welfare Sustainability Commission is expected to report in early March and it is looking at funding over several years. The local CAS met with the commission was held Jan. 25.

This year's Northumberland Children's Aid Society operating budget was $10.4-million, but subsequently reduced to $9.1-million by a $230,000 board-adopted cost-cutting plan that included not replacing staff on temporary leaves, cutting travel costs, reducing training (there hasn't been any since last fall) and examining child placement to keep more in family settings and not more costly group homes, Cutler said.

The organization still anticipates spending $9.7-million to the end of next month, leaving the year's debt over half a million dollars even with the recent announcement.


Source: Northumberland Today