Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies press release
TORONTO, March 24 - Children and youth in Ontario may be underserved and left vulnerable as Children's Aid Societies struggle to provide mandatory child protection services and prevention supports to children and families.
As of the new fiscal year on April 1, agencies mandated to protect children and provide for their well-being will face a projected budget shortfall in excess of $60 million, including the $23 million shortfall from 2007/08.
Children and youth served by Ontario's child welfare agencies will be affected by the funding crisis as programs and initiatives to protect children and support their families are eliminated.
"Without adequate and equitable funding, children may be at risk," says Dennis Nolan, Board President, Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies (OACAS). "Agencies that have the legislative and professional responsibility to protect children may not be able to do so for financial reasons."
Programs and services supporting children, youth and families across Ontario may be reduced or eliminated altogether because there is not enough funding to support these necessary services. Some of the programs and supports are:
- Protection services - funding pressures reduce the agencies' staffing resources so there are fewer protection workers able to respond to and investigate allegations of abuse and neglect. Fewer staff working with children and families also limits the amount of time workers can spend with children so some children who see their workers monthly might have visits every other month.
- Kinship services - without funding to support relatives and family friends to care for their relatives' or friends' children, children may have to be cared for in foster or group homes. At one agency, as many as seven families will no longer be supported and the children may have to be cared for by foster parents.
- Adoption services - without adoption subsidies to support adoptive parents, older children and high-needs children and youth could remain in foster or group care instead of being adopted. One agency is eliminating the subsidy program and two adoption worker positions.
- Youth - services to young people transitioning from care to living on their own may be cut as well as financial supports to youth pursuing post-secondary education risking young people's success and ability to contribute to society.
- Family supports - without services and supports for crisis intervention for families with high-needs children and youth, more children may need to come into agency care. One agency will need to close a program of in-home supports for crisis intervention and strength building that served 61 families last year.
- Community supports - programs in partnership with community services to support families and prevent bringing children into foster or group care may be cut. Agencies may not be able to provide funding or staff for initiatives to eliminate family violence, in-home supports, weekend support programs or parenting programs.
- Children's services - recreational programs for children and youth may be eliminated. At one agency, camping programs will be cut affecting 200 children this year.
Recent changes to services delivered by Ontario's Children's Aid Societies include more customized approaches to families and more stable, long-term, family-like settings for children and youth. These changes could result in fewer children coming into the care of agencies and fewer moves for children from foster and group homes. Budget constraints will force restrictions on these customized and innovative services.
The Government supported the development and implementation of these changes passing amendments to legislation in November 2006. To continue improving the lives of children and youth, new programs and supports will require a sustained funding commitment.
"The financial situation faced by many agencies will make it difficult to protect, care for and help Ontario's children, youth and families," says Jeanette Lewis, Executive Director, OACAS.
Programs for special needs youth, services for aboriginal children and youth in remote, northern communities and French-language services are traditionally under-funded by the Ontario Government. This under-funding limits the capacity of agencies to provide mandatory services.
Ontario's Children's Aid Societies are committed to fully-funded and sustainable child welfare services and supports to improve the well-being, health and safety of Ontario's children, youth and families. Ontario's Children's Aid Societies protect children from abuse including neglect, promote their well-being within their families and communities, and provide a safe, nurturing place for children and youth to grow up.
For further information: Marcelo Gomez-Wiuckstern, Communications Director, Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies, (416) 987-9648, (416) 407-3046 (mobile), www.oacas.org