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Oversight and Accountability for CAS
June 30, 2012 permalink
The Belleville Intelligencer has published an article on children's aid by Curtis Kingston of Canada Court Watch. The same article appeared shortly after in the CK Review.
CAS desperately needs oversight, accountability
In recent times there has been a lot of public scrutiny and publicity on the massive breakdowns of the Prince Edward County Children’s Aid Society.
Because of this, the public has started to learn about some of the serious issues that we as Ontarians are facing in regards to our child welfare system.
In Prince Edward County in the past year alone, there have been four foster parents charged— three convicted — of sex crimes against children in their care; there are now reports of yet another county foster parent that may be charged in the near future.
During this time, the PEC CAS has sounded as though it is just as angry and shares the same disgust on this issue as the rest of the community does.
In an article in The Intelligencer just last year, after Joe and Janet Holm were convicted of crimes against children, former executive director of the Hastings CAS, Len Kennedy, stated this was one isolated incident and should not reflect all foster parents or the capability of a Children’s Aid Society to prevent these atrocities from happening.
The problem with this article was the fact other foster parents had committed similar crimes in the same town.
The case that has been most publicized recently that is still under a publication ban involves a man in the County charged with sex crimes against three girls in his care; he was convicted for crimes against two of them.
In this case, one of the victims reportedly had come forward in 2004 yet the CAS kept this girl in the care of this foster parent for years where she continued to be sexually abused.
It was not until 2009 — after the girl reportedly complained multiple times and after two other girls made complaints — was the man finally charged and eventually convicted.
So at the same time this “One bad apple shouldn’t tarnish all foster parents” article was published, there was already another foster parent in the same town charged with similar crimes.
After this man was finally convicted, another article in The Intelligencer quoted a statement from executive director of the Prince Edward County CAS, Bill Sweet, nearly almost identical to the statement Kennedy made less than one year earlier.
The difference this time though is that now it is confirmed that this is not just “one bad apple.”
According to the Ontario Pediatric Death Review Committee, on average in Ontario, more than 100 innocent children die in the “care” of the Children’s Aid Societies every year.
This is outrageous and there should be proper investigations and inquiries into each of these deaths. Yet, without oversight of and accountability by Children's Aid Societies, we have no way of knowing if investigations are even being held, much less if they are discovering issues that are costing children their lives.
Contrary to common belief, Children’s Aid Societies in Ontario are not government agencies at all, but rather private corporations much like companies like Ornge that receive all of their funding from the government.
That funding is significant: 47 Children’s Aid Societies in the province of Ontario consume 1.4 billion of our hard earned tax dollars every year — with no oversight or accountability.
And that is the issue: not that they are not government agencies, but rather the lack of oversight and accountability.
Don’t get me wrong, I do in fact believe this province needs child protection and there are a lot of good foster parents and CAS workers that do help children in need.
The problem is that because of the lack of accountability and oversight, these good stories and good workers are too often overshadowed by other CAS workers and foster parents who are not in it for the children.
Right now, there is a bill that has been put forward to the Ontario Legislative Assembly (Bill 110) that would allow our Ombudsman the authority to investigate complaints about Children’s Aid Societies in Ontario just as he investigates complaints about other organizations.
Ontario is currently the only province in Canada where the Ombudsman is not authorized to investigate child welfare and this bill, if passed would give child welfare in Ontario the same accountability as every other province in our country.
I encourage every member of the public to please meet with and/or write letters to their local MPPs to show your support for Bill 110 and the oversight and accountability of Children’s Aid Societies in Ontario.
These organizations need to have oversight and accountability to be able to operate fairly and in the best interest of the children and the public needs to speak out about this issue so that we can convince our government to create that oversight and accountability.
At the end of the day, this is our children we are talking about here and our children are our future.
Curtis Kingston is one of the leading advocates in a group called Canada Court Watch where he helps children and families on an individual volunteer basis and also promote the oversight and accountability of the Children's Aid Societies