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Huron-Perth Children’s Aid Announces Shutdown
October 7, 2010 permalink
The Huron-Perth Children’s Aid Society says it is shutting down on December 15, laying off 125 staff and leaving more than 200 foster children without food or shelter. There is no chance this shutdown will actually happen. The announcement is part of a stick-up directed at the taxpayers. Legislators have the choice of providing money or watching their wards go hungry. They always come up with the money. The situation would be different if CAS was providing in-home services to 200 children. Then the legislature could decide to let mom and dad pay the entire cost of care and allow CAS to close. Now do you understand why CAS likes to get lots of kids into foster care?
The announcement appears on the homepage of Huron-Perth CAS.
Funding blamed as children’s aid says it will close
The Huron-Perth Children’s Aid Society announced Thursday it is closing its doors Dec. 15, citing lack of money from the province and a $2.1-million deficit.
The move means 125 employees will get layoff notices Oct. 15 and the welfare of more than 200 children in the agency’s care could be in jeopardy.
“We are closing our doors because we don’t have the funding to continue,” said Tom Knight, the agency’s executive director said Thursday.
On Friday, the agency’s board will meet with Laurel Broten, Ontario minister of children and youth services, in hopes of finding a solution to the financial crisis plaguing this agency and 10 others in Ontario.
“I will not allow kids to be put at risk,” Broten said in an interview Thursday.
“I will take every action needed to make sure the services will continue to be provided. Nothing will stand in the way of protecting kids in Ontario, or in this case, Huron-Perth,” said the MPP for Etobicoke-Lakeshore.
But Broten refused to say whether that meant giving the agency more money.
Knight said the next two months are critical, as the future of 200 children and 448 families the agency cares for every month rests with the province.
The province could either give the agency more money so it could remain open, or take over the agency, he said. The province is mandated by law to care for children in need of protection, he noted.
“I think what would make the most sense is for the province to fund us to the level that we need to continue,” said Knight, adding the agency has been pushing for more provincial money for several years.
At issue, he said, is the “flawed” provincial funding formula which has been capped for the past couple of years and has not matched changes in provincial child welfare laws that are more labour-intensive for child-protection workers and more costly for agencies.
Knight said the funding formula also does not address rural communities without public transit. The agency spends up to $60,000 each month in mileage costs to transport families and children to visits and appointments, he said.
Last November, the province appointed a commission, which was given three years to develop a plan to promote the sustainability of child welfare in Ontario.
But that commission will not be addressing the immediate financial issues of 11 child-protection agencies in Ontario that are on the brink of closing, Knight said.
The 11 agencies have collectively taken the province to court over inadequate funding and a decision is expected next month, he said.
Family and Children’s Services of Waterloo Region is not one of the 11, though it has had its share of financial woes.
Earlier this year, 11 positions were cut at the Waterloo agency as it grappled with a $1.3-million deficit. Those layoffs followed the elimination of 14 positions through attrition in 2009.
Last February, a $27-million provincial bailout helped 26 agencies in worst financial straits. Family and Children’s Services received $1.5 million of that money, and Huron-Perth got $793,000.
Alison Scott, executive director of Family and Children’s Services, said the infusion of extra money improved the agency’s bottom line this year.
“I think we will end the year with a balanced budget” and no further layoffs are expected, she said.
In fact, Scott said the agency has hired four more contract workers to deal with an 11 per cent increase in the number of child abuse investigations, which she attributes to the pressures on families caused by the recession.
Vince Judge, chair of the Stratford agency’s board, told a news conference in Stratford Thursday that lack of provincial funding has resulted in a projected deficit this year of $1.3 million, on top of an $870,000 deficit carried forward from previous years.
This agency “is the lowest-funded agency in this region,” Judge said.
“We are extremely efficient with our funding. We consistently spend 10 to 15 per cent less than other child-protection agencies.”
An emotional Judge said the board has already cut six staff positions and some services to save $500,000, but is not prepared to make any further cuts and put children at risk.
“We decided to take a stand and send a message that we can’t continue” with the current level of funding, said Judge, adding that the board refuses to resign over the issue.
Source: The Record
Addendum: Premier Dalton McGuinty has intervened in the shutdown controversy asserting that the Huron Perth society is too important to close.
This dispute is not about closure, but funding. There is nothing in the record to indicate that premier Dalton McGuinty, minister Laurel Broten or Huron-Perth executive Director Thomas F Knight have ever run a profitable business. Since your editor has done so, fixcas can offer the principals in this negotiation professional advice on controlling costs. Mrs Broten has the power to fire Mr Knight, the one who let costs run out of control. She should use it, or at least make Mr Knight change his ways to keep his job. A board of directors, possibly composed of new faces installed by the minister, can hire a president who is a professional manager skilled in cost control. In any contention between the president and the executive director regarding expenditures, the board must be clear that decisions made by the president take precedence. The professional manager can repatriate children held unnecessarily, stop investigation of frivolous cases and lay off staff currently investigating silly complaints. The new president must also explain to the ministry that the society cannot balance its budget as long as the province funds the society primarily on the number of children seized and the number of child-days in foster care.
Province won't allow Huron Perth CAS to close: McGuinty
LONDON, Ont. — Children in the care of a southwestern Ontario Children's Aid Society will still receive important services while the province and society work out a scheme to keep it open, the government said Friday.
Huron Perth Children's Aid Society, which serves almost 450 families each month, said Thursday it's not getting enough money from the province and will have to shut down Dec. 15.
Foster parents, vulnerable kids and Crown wards will still get support while the province finds a way to keep the society open, Children and Youth Services Minister Laurel Broten said Friday.
"Services that support our most vulnerable families and children will continue in Huron Perth," she said.
"I will not allow kids to be put at risk."
Broten would not reveal details of a meeting with the society Friday, but said she will meet with its representatives again on Wednesday.
Earlier Friday, Premier Dalton McGuinty said the Huron Perth society is too important to close.
McGuinty told London radio station CJBK the government intends to find a way to support the society.
The premier noted Children's Aid Societies help the most vulnerable kids in the province.
Huron Perth CAS officials say the funding formula is flawed, and has left it with a projected $1.3-million deficit and a large debt, despite program and staff cuts.
The agency joined 11 other CAS agencies earlier this year in taking the government to court to have the funding reviewed but the process is still ongoing.
Addendum: In a news item posted to the Ontario government website the Minister of Children and Youth Services, Laurel Broten, has announced that the board of directors of the Huron-Perth Children's Aid Society has been suspended. While this accomplishes one step of our suggestions, the new supervisor, Mr Tedesco, is a long-term bureaucrat, with little or no experience in running a business.
Protecting Vulnerable Children in Huron Perth
Minister Appoints Interim Supervisor at Huron-Perth Children's Aid Society
Ontario is taking action to protect services for vulnerable children at the Huron-Perth Children's Aid Society (HPCAS).
Effective immediately, Minister of Children and Youth Services Laurel Broten has appointed a Supervisor, on an interim basis, to operate and manage the society in place of the Board of Directors. Vince Tedesco will supervise the operations at the HPCAS, so that services will continue to be provided to vulnerable children, foster parents and Crown wards.
Mr. Tedesco will also be responsible for conducting a thorough financial and operational review of the organization.
The decision to appoint a Supervisor was made following a final meeting today between the HPCAS, the Minister and ministry officials. The meeting was in response to a motion passed by the Huron-Perth CAS board on October 5th to close its doors effective December 15, 2010 and issue layoff notices to staff on October 15th. No layoff notices will be issued on Friday October 15th.
- Huron-Perth Children's Aid Society has an approved budget of almost $17 million in funding for the 2010-2011 fiscal year.
- Since 2003-2004, provincial funding of the Huron-Perth Children's Aid Society has increased 60 per cent while the number of kids in care grew by just 4.8 per cent over the same period.
- In 2009, the government created the Commission to Promote Sustainable Child Welfare to work with government and CASs to help Ontario's child protection system remain sustainable and best meet the needs of the kids it serves.
- Since 2003-04, funding to CASs has increased $341 million or 31.9 per cent, while the number of kids in care has decreased by 1.1 per cent during the same period.
- Julia Goloshchuk
- Peter Spadoni
Ministry of Children and Youth Services
Source: Government of Ontario