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More Money for CAS
December 1, 2011 permalink
The purpose of the Youth Leaving Care Hearings is now clear. It is to promote the agenda of the child welfare system.
The actual hearings are not on the internet. There is a TVO program hosted by Steve Paikin discussing foster care with three experts, all adoptive parents, and two former crown wards:
The discussion was limited to making life better for foster children, especially crown wards. The solution? More money for social services.
Vern Beck spoke at the hearings, but Mr Paikin did not invite him, or any other genuine critic, to his discussion. The more important problem was never raised. Children are separated from their real families by force of arms. No one considered that more money for services means more incentive to snatch children to receive that money. Even one of the participants, AJ, pointed out that spending money on services is not beneficial. As a crown ward, everything was paid for, leaving him with a monetary illiteracy. The two young participants also described the strained connection with the social worker having the legal responsibilities of a parent. A curious paradox: Mary Ballantyne took the chance to criticize the amount of paperwork done by caseworkers. It takes time away from caring for their wards. Yet whenever there is a scandal, for example the death of a child in care, child protectors impose solutions requiring more paperwork, background checks or new computer systems.
At 38:10 Paikin tries to get AJ to speak favorably of adoption. AJ nixes the idea because it would have broken up what relationship he still had with his mother. Will Falk changed the subject.
Here is the audio Ontario's Crown Wards Need Us to be Better Parents (mp3). The TVO write-up of its program is below.
Normally, hearings are a boring affair. They are held in aggressively lit rooms where well-educated people submit passionate but dry proposals to another group of well-educated people who can potentially change some piece of legislation at a date years in the future, to alter this or that outcome (hopefully for the better).
For the past two Fridays I've spent the better part of my day at the Youth Leaving Care Hearings held by the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, led by Irwin Elman. And they were anything but boring. These hearings had it all … passionate submissions by youth and adults alike, singing, theatre and substance.
The issue of Youth leaving care is a serious one.
Almost 17,000 of Ontario's 3.1 million children are in the care of Children's Aid Societies. Approximately half are crown wards, which essentially makes the government their parent. Just 44 per cent of youth in care graduate from high school compared to 81 per cent of the general population. Among homeless youth, 68 per cent have come from foster homes, group homes and/or a youth centre. Up to 71 per cent of homeless youth have had previous criminal justice involvement.
Some of the personal stories were absolutely heartbreaking. One young woman had managed to beat the considerable odds against her and make it into a post-secondary institution only to find out that the cost of her books was not covered by the government, as she had been told by her social worker. Most kids (I'm sorry but even though she was over 18 she still seemed like a kid to me) would have phoned their parents and asked for a loan, but when the province is your parent and they make a mistake you have nowhere to turn. Luckily this young woman managed to get by but imagine if she had had to drop out of school for want of $500.
Many of these youth have seen and experienced things in their short lives that would break other people. Many are socially and emotionally immature and will themselves admit that. Certainly their case workers, foster parents and therapists know this. And still, if they are not enrolled in school at the age of 18 they are cut off from receiving assistance. If they are enrolled in school they receive assistance until the age of 21. How many people can say, that by the age of 21, they have never once had to turn to their parents for financial or emotional support? Not many. Not me. And yet we, as a society, abandon the most vulnerable at the very beginning of their adult lives. Talk about sink or swim!
It was impossible not to be moved by the stories: the gratitude a 16-year-old expressed for being adopted into a family. Gratitude for just having parents at all. And so it is also nearly impossible not to want to see change in the system to improve the lives and the outcomes for these kids. These are people who have lived with too much pain, for whom life has not been in any way fair. So many of the solutions they proposed seemed, to my ears at least, infinitely logical and simple: give the kids some life skills training and some financial literacy before cutting them off. What kind of parent wouldn't do that? A crappy one, that's what kind.
Do you want to be a crappy parent? I sure don't, but every taxpayer in this province is a parent to these kids and we have a duty to hold the government to account. These are tough economic times and I don't envy the government's choices. But to keep ignoring these kids is, well, not okay. It just isn't.
It's time to pay attention to this issue, Ontario.
Additional commentary from Anne Patterson:
Underwood is an adopter, and a former board member of the Toronto CAS, an agency that was cited with three others in the Jim McCarter audit for; wining and dining, trips to the Carribean with children (which is highly suspect), 60K SUVs, and various other breaches such as not bothering to check on children, doing police checks and disregarding procedures.
Underwood is not an expert on child welfare, but was appointed to the three panel committee to study this. She comes from the health care sector, and is involved with the LHINs.
Underwood is the former advisor to Dr. Alan Hudson a prominent figure that stepped down over the e-health scandal.
E-health is also connected to Will Falk as his wife was childhood friends with Sarah Kramer, and he was her reference bringing her to the e-health chair.
In the discussion Mary Ballantyne shows her soft side. For her other side, recall that she was executive director of Simcoe CAS in Barrie when Natalie was apprehended. Read the article Police Remove Girl or just watch the video (mp4).