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Foster Parents Complain over Funding

June 3, 2013 permalink

Responding to criticism that Ontario funds children's aid societies in a way that serves as an incentive to seize more children [1] [2], Ontario has introduced a new funding formula for CAS. Since both the old and new formulas are unpublished, fixcas has not commented on the change. But since the announcement of the new formula there have been funding complaints from Hamilton, Haldimand-Norfolk, Haldimand-Norfolk, St Thomas-Elgin, all of Ontario and Highland Shores, and Hamilton.

Today there is a new form of objection from the CAS of Lanark, Leeds and Grenville. Foster parents are objecting that reduced funding will make it impossible to care for their wards. Without seeing the actual formula, there is no way to be sure, but it is a good guess that the ministry did not cut the funding for foster parents. The local CAS, through its board and management, did so. The same kind of agency willing to harm families to suppress dissent is willing to cut pay for foster families to pressure the Ontario government over funding. In battles of this type between child-care agencies and funding sources, the agencies always win in the end, even when, as in the state of Maine, there is a decade-long hiatus in the flow of funds. [1] [2]. In Ontario CAS has not yet pulled out the super-weapon in this kind of fighting — blaming the death of a child on funding cuts.

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Foster parents threaten to leave family services centre

Relationship with new administration, changes in compensation spark pushback

OTTAWA — Foster parents are threatening to leave Family and Children’s Services of Lanark, Leeds and Grenville because the agency is bringing in changes they say will make it impossible to give the children the care they need.

“People are talking about a mass exodus,” says Gena Morrow, a foster parent with the agency, which looks after about 120 foster children in Brockville, Kemptville and Gananoque.

Along with her husband, Tony, Morrow is spearheading a pushback against the changes to compensation which she says will affect parents’ ability to continue to work for the agency.

“They’ve made decisions based on dollars without looking at the impact on families,” says Morrow.

Parents say they were not consulted about the changes and were only told of them two days before their approval in February.

The primary concern is the elimination of designations for children with special needs, such as intellectual or physical disabilities or a history of abuse, and the extra money required for their care.

Parents say they took on such children with the expectation they would stay home to provide 24/7 care. The changes mean they will receive half the money they used to receive and will have to get outside work, leaving them less time to look after the children in their care.

“A lot of people talk about dollars and cents, but it’s about recognition for the work that you do,” says Allison Asselstine, president of the Foster Family Association, which represents the foster parents’ interests.

The problems began when the Children’s Aid Society of the County of Lanark and the Town of Smiths Falls, and Family and Children’s Services of Leeds and Grenville, amalgamated in 2011 to form the current agency. The administration changed at the same time.

“The amalgamation transition has been challenging times,” said the agency’s executive director, Allan Hogan, who wouldn’t comment on the changes, other than to say the family association signed off on them.

Hogan said that once parents notified the administration of their concerns, changes to compensation were pushed back to October from the original April start date.

Last week, about 60 people — parents and social workers employed by the agency — dressed in black funeral attire as a sign of protest while the Morrows outlined their concerns to the board at a meeting in Perth.

The meeting represented one of the few times the parents have been able to directly communicate with the board since the amalgamation. The family association had good relations with the previous administration, says Morrow, and more communication with the board.

Following the amalgamation, the foster parent representative on the board, Deborah O’Connor, was redesignated as a general board member.

“I do not get to speak to the board any more on behalf of the foster parents, and my loyalties are supposed to be with the board, not the foster parents now,” said O’Connor.

She said she understands the decision as a means of eliminating conflict of interest but thinks foster parents should still have a voice on the board.

Relations between the administration and the social workers it employs has been strained, too. Drawn out negotiations between their union, CUPE, and the agency followed the amalgamation. The workers ultimately accepted lower wages.

About a dozen workers have not had their contracts renewed since the merger.

The social workers have rallied behind the foster parents, adding their concerns of overwhelming caseloads and transfers of children to the private system to the debate. They were supposed to pick up the extra slack when it comes to care but are being stretched thin by cuts at the agency, said union local president Mike Burt.

“We’re certainly supporting our foster parents’ struggles to keep their support in place,” says Burt.

The family association is looking to the government for support, too.

Foster parent Doug Martin contacted the Ministry of Child and Youth Services, which oversees the province’s foster care system, for help in dealing with the agency.

“We’ve lost the trust and transparency, and we feel we have to fight for the children in our care,” he said.

The ministry’s South East Regional office has since been in regular contact with the agency and the family association to try to help the parties solve their disagreements, a ministry spokeswoman said in an email. Parents are also in contact with MPPs and the Provincial Child Advocate’s Office.

The association, board of directors and agency administration met Monday to discuss the rates and other service changes.

Morrow, Asselstine and fellow foster parents presented a plan they have devised to compensate parents for their experience, especially with regards to high-needs children.

Morrow said afterwards that there was some progress, but that there was much more work to do before parents will want to take on new placements.

Source: Ottawa Citizen

Addendum: Within a day, the other Hamilton CAS announces layoffs, and claims cuts will hurt children.



Hamilton Catholic children’s aid laying off 10 staff

David Shea
David Shea, director of the Hamilton Catholic Children’s Aid Society
Hamilton Spectator file photo

The same provincial clawbacks that forced the Hamilton Children's Aid society to cut 70 staff are now leading to layoffs at Catholic Children's Aid.

In a release sent Monday morning, director David Shea said a two per cent funding reduction in provincial funding is forcing the layoff of 10 employees.

The layoffs are affecting both unionized and non-unionized staff, as well as management. The agency is also not filling vacancies left by temporary leaves.

The release states that the province's new funding formula has "placed pressure on the organization.

"The reduction in funding may require changes in the way we deliver services," it reads. "We remain confident in the delivery of services that keep children and families safe and supported."

The province's changes to funding for children's aid societies have had a devastating impact on Hamilton's agencies.

Previously, children's aid societies received funding based on projections. If the actual caseload fell short, money had to be returned to the province. If the caseload was greater than the projections, agencies would receive more money.

However, that created scenarios where CAS workers were being asked to keep cases open to make it appear that caseloads were larger.

Under the province's new funding model, half of the agency's funding will be based on a three-year average of past caseloads. The remaining half will be based on socioeconomic factors, including low-income families, single parents, and aboriginal children, within a society's catchment area.

The Hamilton CAS saw its 2013-2014 allocation shrink by $2 million to $46 million. The agency also says the province is reducing its allocation by $4.7 million over the next four years.

That has led to the Hamilton CAS decision to lay off 70 employees, a move they warn will lead to more children in foster care.

Source: Hamilton Spectator