Children's Aid Societies are addressing the Auditor General's recommendations



    TORONTO, April 4 /CNW/ - Ontario's Children's Aid Societies have
developed policies and measures to address each of the 20 recommendations made
by Ontario's Auditor General in his first-ever value-for-money audit of four
of the province's 53 Children's Aid Societies, the Ontario Association of
Children's Aid Societies (OACAS) announced today.
    "Ontario's Children's Aid Societies have acted in a responsible and
accountable manner to address the Auditor's recommendations," said Dennis
Nolan, President of the OACAS. "Our member agencies are working hard to change
their administration practices without compromising the quality of service
offered to thousands of vulnerable families and children."
    When the report was released last fall, Children's Aid Societies (CASs)
formed working groups to review each recommendation and develop solutions.
CASs are currently updating their policies in the areas of purchasing,
procurement, fleet management, travel and hospitality expenses. These policies
are being implemented concurrently with other directives, standards,
guidelines and reporting requirements from the Ministry of Children and Youth
Services as part of the Transformation Agenda.
    "The field has worked hard to identify and disseminate best practices for
delivery of high-quality child welfare services, for prudent management of
resources, and for public accountability," said Jeanette Lewis, Executive
Director of the OACAS. "However, too many layers of administration and
standards may compromise the amount of time workers spend trying to help
children and families."
    The Transformation Agenda is a massive change in child welfare service
delivery, supported throughout the children's service system in Ontario. Major
changes are being implemented beginning in April 2007 in the areas of
differential response (a more child-family-centered approach: the right
service at the right time), better permanency planning (including kinship and
foster care, adoption, custody arrangements), and alternatives to court
processes (mediation, talking circles). This approach will be supported by
research, information systems and an outcomes approach to accountability. The
Transformation Agenda also includes special Aboriginal provisions for
Aboriginal and First Nations children to be served by their own communities.
    "Our member agencies are embracing these changes, but need public support
and confidence in the work they do to protect our children," said Lewis.
"Child protection workers play a vital role in our society. Much like police
officers, firefighters and doctors, they protect and save lives by helping
vulnerable children."
    Children's Aid Societies rely on professionals and members of the
community to report child abuse or neglect. It is important that the public
trusts CASs and have faith in their ability to help children and families -
this could be hard to achieve in the face of frequent and inaccurate messaging
and lack of support.

    About Children's Aid Societies

    CASs provide critical services and are legislated to exclusively perform
certain functions under the provisions of Section 15 of the Child and Family
Services Act (CFSA). Their mandate includes the following: to investigate
allegations that children are in need of protection; to protect children; to
provide guidance for protecting children and for the prevention of
circumstances requiring the protection of children; and to provide care for
children assigned to its care under this Act.
    The legislation, regulations, directives and standards prescribe very
specific and detailed requirements for what CASs must do for children and
families, how they must provide services, including French language services,
and the timelines in which critical services must be provided. The Ministry of
Children and Youth Services oversees CASs' operations in detail and Local
Boards of Directors have oversight responsibility for agencies to ensure that
services provided are tailored to the community's needs.
    In 2005/006 Children's Aid Societies completed 82,346 investigations and
cared for 29,385 children.

    About the OACAS

    OACAS is a membership organization representing 52 of the 53 Children's
Aid Societies in Ontario. The Association has served its members, the
community, the public and the government in a variety of ways since 1912.
These services have included the promotion of child welfare issues, member
services, government liaison and policy development, research and special
projects, quality assurance in child welfare practice and training for all
protection workers throughout the province.



    
                                                                Backgrounder
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               AUDITOR GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS AND ACTION PLAN

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        Auditor General Recommendation          Proposed Action Plan
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    1   PURCHASING                       Societies are ensuring that their
        To help ensure that              policies reflect a fair and
        expenditures represent value     competitive process including
        for money spent while            documentation that justifies the
        promoting fair dealings with     acquisition of goods and services,
        vendors, CASs should:            exceptions, purchasing processes,
        -  Establish prudent             binding agreements, and delegations
           requirements for the          of authority. A policy review cycle
           competitive acquisition of    of at least once every four years
           goods and services; and       will be instituted.
        -  Adhere to those
           requirements, unless they
           can document adequate
           reasons for doing
           otherwise.
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    2   PROFESSIONAL SERVICES AND        Societies are ensuring that their
        CONSULTANTS                      professional services purchasing
        In order to promote VALUE FOR    policies reflect a fair and
        MONEY spent in the purchase of   competitive process including
        professional services, CASs      documents that justify the
        should:                          acquisition of goods and services,
        -  Document the basis on which   exceptions, purchasing processes,
           professional firms or         binding agreements, and delegations
           individuals were selected     of authority. Supporting
           and why the fees were         documentation will be attached to
           commensurate with the         invoices and a policy review cycle
           qualifications of those       of at least once every four years
           firms or individuals;         will be instituted.
        -  Enter into formal written
           agreements detailing the
           conditions under which
           services are to be provided
           and paid for, and
           periodically evaluate
           results achieved; and
        -  Ensure that invoices
           contain sufficient detail
           to assess the
           appropriateness and
           reasonableness of amounts
           billed.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    3   TRAVEL EXPENSES AND FLEET        Societies are updating their fleet
        MANAGEMENT                       management and travel policies to
        In order to help ensure that     reflect a periodic analysis of the
        vehicles are owned or leased     Society's transportation
        only when necessary, and that    requirements as well as the
        transportation requirements      acquisition, usage, maintenance and
        are acquired economically,       disposal of vehicles. Supporting
        those CASs that have vehicles    documentation will be attached to
        should:                          the invoices and included in the
        -  Analyze their                 accounts payable file.
           transportation requirements
           and ensure that the number    Societies will ensure compliance
           of vehicles they own or       with Canadian Income Tax Law by
           lease is justified based on   annually reviewing allowances and
           those requirements;           expenditures to determine
        -  Reassess the                  appropriate reporting on Society
           appropriateness of            staff T-4's.
           acquiring high-end luxury
           vehicles; and
        -  Maintain logs for all
           vehicles to effectively
           control and monitor their
           use
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    4   USE OF CAS CREDIT CARDS          Societies are updating their credit
        In order to ensure that          card and travel policies to reflect
        payments made for credit-card    the requirement of documentation
        purchases are legitimate and     attached to invoices and included in
        reasonable in the                appropriate files. This policy will
        circumstances, Children's Aid    be subject to a review cycle of at
        Societies should:                least once every four years. All
        -  obtain sufficiently           expenditures will be authorized by
           detailed receipts necessary   the appropriate signing authority.
           to establish the
           appropriateness and
           reasonableness of items
           purchased, and the amounts
           billed and to be paid, and
           reconcile these receipts
           with the credit-card
           companies' monthly
           statements;
        -  ensure that all amounts
           paid are reasonable and for
           valid business purposes;
           and
        -  develop a policy regarding
           out-of-country travel that
           clearly indicates under
           which circumstances such
           travel is permissible, and
           sets out reasonable fare
           guidelines.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    5   REIMBURSEMENT FOR PERSONAL       Societies are updating their travel
        VEHICLES                         policies to reflect best practices
        In order to help ensure that     and directives received from the
        amounts reimbursed for the       Ministry on February 1, 2007.
        use of personal vehicles are
        reasonable and work-related,
        CASs should:
        -  Require the purpose of each
           trip be documented, and
           ensure that all claim forms
           indicate start and end
           points for the trips
           claimed; and
        -  Ensure that kilometres
           claimed for longer trips
           are reasonable relative to
           distances indicated by
           Internet mapping programs,
           unless otherwise explained.
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    6   RESIDENTIAL CARE COSTS AND       The establishment of the proposed
        PLACEMENT DECISIONS              Shared Service Corporation (SSC),
        In order to help ensure that     initially funded through
        children are appropriately and   OntarioBuys, will clarify the
        economically placed, CASs        services that are being provided by
        should:                          the OPI and the rate to be charged,
        -  Obtain from the Ministry of   which will be included in the Master
           Children and Youth Services   Service Agreement with the OPI. SSC
           detailed information on the   will gather information about the
           specific services covered     decisions made by placement staff at
           by the per diem rates in      CASs and monitor the placement
           the contracts with outside    decisions. The business plan for the
           purchased institutions        establishment of the SSC has been
           (OPIs) and on whether any     submitted to the Ministry of
           other services are            Children and Youth Service and the
           available; and formally       Ministry of Finance.
           document the basis and
           factors on which placement
           decisions are made.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    7   SPECIAL RATE AGREEMENTS          The SSC will develop a Master
        In order to ensure that CASs     Services Agreement, which will be
        enter into Special Rate          signed by all OPIs, to describe the
        Agreements only when necessary   services that they are providing
        and that contracted-for          and the rates for each service. SSC
        services are reasonably priced   will monitor the validity of
        and actually received, CASs      additional rate by using data
        should:                          available in similar Special Rate
        -  Periodically assess and       Agreements from across the province
           document the need for         and conducting regular assessments
           additional services over      of each OPI.
           and above those provided
           for under the Ministry-
           negotiated per diem rate;
        -  Enter into written
           agreements spelling out
           what additional services
           are to be provided and at
           what cost;
        -  Periodically visit the
           institution providing the
           services to verify and
           document that they actually
           receive the additional
           services for which they
           pay.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    8   CASE MANAGEMENT AND QUALITY OF   The new Ontario Risk Assessment
        SERVICE                          Model is being implemented and will
        To ensure that all referrals     address this recommendation.
        of children potentially in
        need are appropriately           The Ministry's commitments to
        assessed and investigated on a   develop quality assurance capacity
        timely basis, and that CASs      through increased funding must
        can demonstrate that they have   continue if Societies move forward
        done so, Societies should        in developing quality assurance
        conduct and adequately           capacity.
        document the Intake/
        Investigation Process required   Some Societies have developed and
        under the Ontario Risk           are sharing tools with two levels of
        Assessment Model, within the     monitoring and auditing for
        required time frames, for all    compliance: Individual Case Audits
        referrals.                       and overall Agency Compliance
                                         Monitoring.
    9   ONGOING PROTECTION SERVICES
        To ensure that all children
        and families get the services
        they require on a timely
        basis, and to ensure that CASs
        can demonstrate that they are
        properly monitoring cases, all
        Societies should conduct and
        adequately document the
        ongoing protection services
        procedures required under
        legislation and ORAM

    10  QA OVER CASE FILES
        CASs should implement periodic
        quality assurance reviews of
        referrals deemed ineligible
        for service, as well as of
        open case files, to ensure
        compliance with Ontario Risk
        Assessment Model requirements
        and to assess the
        appropriateness of decisions
        being made by front-line
        caseworker staff.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    11  EXTENDED CARE AND MAINTENANCE    Societies have developed policies
        (ECM)                            and procedures that reflect ECM
        To comply with the intent of     agreements properly completed and
        Extended Care and Maintenance    signed, which will include all
        Agreements, Children's Aid       Ministry-required goals and
        Societies should ensure that:    conditions, as well as monitoring
        -  Agreements are properly       and assessing for compliance with
           completed and signed by all   terms of the agreement.
           required parties, and
           include all ministry-         It is also recommended that the
           required goals and            Ministry consider extending ECM to
           conditions; and               age 24 including youth in post-
        -  Youth are adequately          secondary education, providing
           monitored and assessed for    supports to eligible Transitional
           compliance with the terms     Aged Youth as of 18th birthday,
           of their agreement.           and developing service and support
                                         guidelines to address the specific
                                         needs of youth who are homeless.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    12  SOCIETY OPERATED FOSTER CARE     Societies are developing policies
        To help ensure that foster       and procedures reflecting best
        parents have the necessary       practices related to receipt,
        skills and resources to          recording and tracking of all
        provide quality care to the      documentation. Societies will
        children entrusted to them,      define a homestudy/assessment and
        CASs should verify and           develop a clear standard on the
        document adherence to the        need for updated police checks on a
        requirements for the             regular basis; including long
        recruiting, approving,           service foster homes where
        training, and monitoring of      previously not required and
        foster parents.                  attaching these checks in every
                                         file.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    13  OPI                              The Shared Service Corporation will
        To help ensure that children     be able to improve the regularity of
        are placed in Outside            assessments and reduce the
        Purchased Institutions that      duplication that comes from several
        provide quality care and         societies assessing the same OPI. It
        services, CASs should have       will implement a standardized
        policies and procedures          assessment tool and a policy
        requiring them to perform        framework to guide the conduct of
        annual evaluations of the        regular assessments and the
        Institutions used, and they      validating and sharing of the
        should comply with these         information gathered. This
        policies. In addition,           information will be documented and
        Societies should provide the     will be accessible in real-time to
        Ministry with copies of the      CASs to assist them in making their
        annual evaluations for           placement decisions.
        consideration during the
        licensing and contracting
        process.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    14  CASELOAD BENCHMARKS              It is recommended that CASs in
        CASs should:                     partnership with the Ministry
        -  establish reasonable          sponsor an objective third party
           caseload benchmarks for       Workload Measurement Study to assess
           their caseworkers; and        the impact of Transformation on
        -  collect information on        workload in order to develop
           caseworker caseloads in a     reasonable caseloads and adopt
           format that allows            common language to ensure uniformity
           comparison to established     of response.
           benchmarks in order to
           determine whether current
           Society caseloads are
           appropriate.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    15  TIME ACCOUNTING                  It is recommended that Societies
        In order to ensure that staff    review their policies, practices and
        time is properly monitored and   mechanisms currently in place for
        accounted for, CASs should       tracking staff activities and ensure
        institute a time-accounting      accountability.
        system to track how their
        caseworkers use their time.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    16  AFTER-HOURS                      Societies are developing a program
        In order to properly allocate    description, collecting critical
        after-hours staff based on       data and information, and conducting
        call volume, and to determine    a review/analysis of this data in
        optimal staffing levels, CASs    order to evaluate the service and
        should have systems in place     cost effectiveness of after-hours
        to monitor and analyze after-    programming. It should be noted that
        hours call volumes and the       Societies are not funded to provide
        utilization of staff, and then   24/7 service but are expected to do
        assign staff accordingly.        this with current funding.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    17  STAFF QUALIFICATIONS AND         Societies are reviewing their
        REQUIREMENTS                     policies and procedures to ensure
        CASs should have supervisory     that they reflect best practices and
        personnel perform spot checks    performance management.
        to ensure compliance with
        internal policies regarding
        hiring practices and the
        ongoing management of employee
        performance.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    18  OTHER HR ISSUES - SALARY         Societies are implementing policies
        BONUSES AND OVERTIME             that:
        CASs should ensure that          -  Will support any additional
        additional remuneration paid        compensation such as bonuses or
        to employees over and above         salary increases provided
        their regular salary is in          outside the salary scale;
        compliance with established      -  Require that any verbal agreement
        policies and approved by            be documented in writing such as
        senior management and the           professional memberships, annual
        Board of Directors as               conferences, etc.
        appropriate.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    19  COMPLAINTS                       Societies are implementing policies
        In order to help ensure that     that will follow ministry/
        complaints get timely and        legislative directives as of
        appropriate attention and        November 30, 2007.
        resolution as required under
        the Child and Family Services
        Act, CASs should:
        -  Ensure that internal
           policies and time
           requirements are adequate
           and complied with; and
        -  Maintain adequate records
           in order to properly track
           all complaints received,
           along with their resolution.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    20  SERIOUS OCCURRENCES              It is recommended that Societies
        All CASs should:                 align policies and procedures to
        -  Comply with ministry          meet ministry guidelines/directives
           requirements to ensure all
           serious occurrences are
           reported to the Ministry in
           a timely fashion; and
        -  Ensure the required follow-
           up action is taken and
           documented for the
           protection of all parties
           involved.
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For further information:

For further information: Marcelo Gomez-Wiuckstern, Communications
Manager, Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies, (416) 987-9648,
www.oacas.org

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Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies

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