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Waterloo CAS Audit
June 29, 2013 permalink
A $2.5 million deficit at Waterloo CAS caused the province to conduct an audit. A story in the press gives a somewhat garbled report. Among the contradictions, the deficit resulted in the elimination of the equivalent of 50 full-time positions, but there were no recommended staff cuts.
Activity increased because over seven months in 2010-2011 three Waterloo-area children died. Waterloo CAS underwent a mini-panic as reports of abuse shot up. The story names the three dead children. These are the kind of deaths child protectors want you to know about, the ones where CAS was watching the family and a parent killed a child. They bolster calls for more resources to grab kids. But when a child dies in a foster home, they black out the name (it might cause the emotional harm to the child!).
Local child welfare agency too quick to intervene, provincial audit says
WATERLOO REGION — A heightened awareness of children at risk was partly behind rising costs and heavier caseloads at Family and Children's Services of the Waterloo Region, a provincial audit has found.
After three recent deaths of children at the hands of their caregivers, agency workers became more cautious, taking more children into care, the report said.
Police referrals also went up.
The report recommends a balance between protecting children and living within a budget.
Alison Scott, the agency's executive director, said the audit will not deter the agency from its mandate to protect children.
"We are not going to change our service approach," she said.
Last January, 12 provincial investigators spent two weeks at the Kitchener-based agency reviewing its financial books and 332 case files to help the organization deal with the reasons behind last year's record deficit of $2.5 million.
The deficit resulted in the closure of seven of its eight group homes and the elimination of the equivalent of 50 full-time positions.
On Friday, Scott shared the findings of the ministry report for the first time publicly.
"I think it is an excellent report," she said.
The agency's board has implemented all but five of the report's 31 recommendations, she said. There were no recommended staff cuts.
One of the report's key findings is that the agency's focus on responding to cases of family violence resulted in more admissions per 1,000 children than other child-welfare agencies in similar-sized communities and that 60 per cent of those children were under the age of seven.
Family violence accounts for 27 per cent of the agency's caseload, the report found.
Scott said the death of three children over two years resulted in a heightened concern, by agency workers, for children in domestic violence cases and more agency involvement with these families.
And it also resulted in a high number of referrals from the community, especially police, increasing the agency's workload and driving up costs.
Last year, the agency received 11,669 referrals and 11,963 in 2011, a result of the three deaths.
In all three cases, the families were supervised by the agency.
The three deaths were:
- Four-month-old Kayleigh Ingram-Summers, of Cambridge, died in July 2010. Her 20-year-old father was sentenced to eight years in prison for shaking her to death.
- Rayna Gagne, 4, also of Cambridge, died February 2011 of head trauma as a result of a spanking. Her stepfather was sentenced to nine years in prison.
- Cameron Reeve, 2, of Waterloo, also died in February 2011. He was killed by his father who then killed himself.
The ministry audit noted that a review of some of the community referrals found that agency workers intervened in cases when it was "not readily apparent if or in what way children have been impacted" by the reported family violence incident.
This data "coupled with workers' statements regarding the impact of recent child deaths … led the reviewers to believe the society may need to review its damage prevention strategy," the report said.
The audit also recommended "as a starting point" that the agency review its referral protocols with police regarding children's exposure to adult conflict.
Scott said the ministry's position is "in child-welfare cases you can't prevent all deaths.
"They are saying you need to find the right balance" between protecting children and living within a budget, she said.
Jill Stoddart, research and quality control manager at the agency, said the investigators found that agency workers "erred on the side of caution" in admitting more children than ministry investigators felt were warranted.
"You could argue we are too cautious or you could argue we are more proactive," Stoddart said.
She said the agency chooses to invest money upfront in prevention, rather than waiting until the family situation worsens.
Scott said the agency will review its family violence policies and protocols with police and other agencies, but she said she will not compromise the safety of children.
"If the need is there, we are coming," she said.
Scott said child-abuse cases tend to be under-reported, so the agency is not going to ask police and other agencies to stop calling when they fear for a child's safety.
"We will not change our practice," she said.
Source: The Record
Addendum:In the effort to present diverse opinions, here is one by Luisa D’Amato in the Waterloo Record. A reader comment sets her straight.
D'Amato: Child protection receives short shrift from province
Show me a family where the father beats up the mother, and I'll show you their emotionally abused child.
It makes no difference if the child happens to be at a sleepover the night that the neighbours finally call police. Child-protection workers need to get in there, find out what's going on and help the family.
This seems like common sense to me. But in a provincial audit of Waterloo Region's Family and Children's Services, it is suggested that this idea costs too much.
Right now, police called to a domestic-violence scene will involve the agency if a child regularly lives in that house, even if he or she isn't home when the violence happens. The ministry people suggest a review of that approach, since their audit showed that in some cases, "it is not readily apparent if or in what way children have been impacted by the reported incident."
Fortunately, the people who run the Waterloo Region child-protection agency haven't forgotten why they're there.
"We're not going to stop bringing kids in when they need to come in," said Jill Stoddart, senior manager of innovation, research and development.
The audit, of course, has a lot to do with finding ways to save money. Family and Children's Services of Waterloo came to the province's attention when it showed a $3.1-million accumulated deficit last year.
The Ministry of Child and Youth Services bailed them out, and also did an audit which focused on finding ways to cut costs.
Some of the audit's suggestions are constructive and helpful. Others are outrageous.
For example, the ministry people suggest the agency is too generous in paying mileage, parking and other costs for volunteers who drive children in care to appointments, or who help out at special events. They think the volunteer should bear these costs.
The ministry staff also suggest that the agency might stop paying for things like school transportation for a child who has been moved across town to a foster home, but who would be better off attending his or her home school.
The local agency has implemented many of the audit's recommendations, but not those ideas, executive director Alison Scott has said.
"We are not going to change our service approach," she said last week.
Good for her.
This audit is just part of a fiscal vise that child-protection agencies in Ontario are being put through.
The Ontario government — which has all kinds of cash to move gas plants around and give out tuition subsidies for the university-bound children of upper-middle-class families — is chintzing out on one of the most important jobs government does: Protecting children from neglect, sexual abuse, violence, abandonment and emotional harm.
Although this region has one of the fastest-growing child populations in the province — and experienced a nearly five-per-cent increase in the number of child-protection investigations it did over the past three years — this agency will get less money to do its work this year than it did last year.
For the next three years, there are no inflationary or other increases planned in the amount that Queen's Park spends on child protection across the province.
And the flexibility that used to be there — if your caseload was higher, you'd get more money — is now gone.
Meanwhile, board members of child protection agencies will now be required to sign a contract stating they will not exceed their budgets. Oh, but they still have to provide child protection according to the law.
That's a lot of pressure, especially when you have no control over the number of calls you will get.
"We rely on the community to call (with) cases of children at risk. We don't want to go back to the community and say, 'Don't call us," said Karen Spencer, director of client services.
Within an eight-month period in 2010 and 2011, there were three young children in Waterloo Region who were killed by their fathers or stepfathers. It was an unusually high number. Public awareness of child abuse soared after that, and the agency took lots more calls.
Each call has to be checked out, even if it's just with a conversation over the phone. Each time a call is checked out, it costs money.
But would you want it any other way?
Wow. This is no better than an ad written by a spend thrift, misandrist, feminist. Look how it starts: "Show me a family where the father beats up the mother, and I'll show you their emotionally abused child. " The precipitation of non-reciprocal Intimate Partner Violence is going to be more likely from the female. Why you ask? Because she can - most men do not hit back. Multiple studies conform this. http://lab.drdondutton.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Carney-M.M.-Buttell-F.-Dutton-D.G.-2007-Women-who-perpetrate-intimate-violence.pdf
Source: The Record