One year anniversary in Jeffrey Baldwin inquest reveals lack of urgency by sector

TORONTO, March 4, 2015 /CNW/ - Ontario's Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth is calling on individual ministries, children's aid societies, the education sector, and others to move on the recommendations made at the Jeffrey Baldwin inquest.

More than a year has passed since a jury announced 103 recommendations to improve child protection in Ontario following the death of five-year-old Baldwin who died under his grandparent's supervision in Toronto.

"Jeffrey Baldwin's life and death tragically demonstrates the need for fundamental change in how we protect children and support families," said Irwin Elman, Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth. "The weight of these recommendations should represent an important turning point for child protection in this province."

The recommendations are aimed at closing the gaps in Ontario's child welfare system and introducing the necessary tools and safeguards to better protect children in care. The recommendations are directed at 10 parties, most notably the Ministry of Children and Youth Services; the Ministry of Education; the Catholic Children's Aid Society of Toronto; and the Children's Aid Societies and their provincial association. Each of these organizations has written the Chief Coroner to respond to specific recommendations that fall under their mandate and their progress to date.

The Coroner decided against the Baldwin inquest jury recommendation that he hold a press conference within one year of the recommendations to keep the public apprised of each party's actions to date.

In response, the Provincial Advocate asked the Coroner's Office to share each party's response. An examination of these updates has revealed the following:

  • A year later, only 20 per cent (22 out of 103) of the recommendations were reported back by the parties as having been "implemented" or "to be implemented."
  • Over one-third (38 out of 103) of the recommendations were reported as being still "under consideration."
  • The Toronto District School Board has yet to respond to the Coroner's request for an update. A total of 11 recommendations are directed at the school board.
  • A number of committees have been struck to review individual recommendations, but in one case there is little indication that the committee has met.
  • Some of the responses failed to indicate any timelines for implementing the recommendation.

"In reviewing the various responses, I am frustrated and disappointed by the lack of urgency by some parties to move on these recommendations. The children of Ontario deserve our best efforts to protect them. Citizens of the province, as represented by the jury who worked long and hard at the inquest, and the recommendations deserve the respect of consideration," said Elman. "I will be following-up with different parties to clarify their positions and to press them for action."  

Last year, a youth advisory group to the Jeffrey Baldwin inquest was established by the Advocate's Office to provide a unique lens to the issues and the recommendations.

"Our advisory group is very disappointed that the recommendations are not being taken seriously. A year after the inquest concluded, we got much of 'we will consider it' from some of the key stakeholders. For example, the new CPIN database is projected to finish in 2019 but Jeffrey died in 2000. We cannot wait 19 years for action," said Anna Ho, a member of the youth advisory group to the Jeffrey Baldwin inquest and a former youth in care.

"I think we owe it to every child in care to move on these recommendations. And most importantly, we owe it to Jeffrey. We will be reaching out to different parties to help them understand the stories and realities in which the recommendations stem from and what it means for young people in Ontario if these recommendations are not implemented. A face-to-face conversation is needed. Who best to hear it from then the very people that have first-hand experience with living in the gaps of a broken system," said Ho.

The Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth will be tracking each of the recommendations using its Inquest Database to identify possible trends and issues across inquests, and to hold parties accountable.

About the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth
The Office of the Provincial Advocate reports directly to the Legislature and provides an independent voice for children and youth, including children with special needs and First Nations children. The advocates receive and respond to concerns from children, youth and families who are seeking or receiving services under the Child and Family Services Act and the Education Act (Provincial and Demonstration Schools). The Provincial Advocate may identify systemic problems involving children, conduct reviews and provide education and advice on the issue of advocacy and the rights of children.

The Office is guided by the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and has a strong commitment to youth involvement.

SOURCE Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth

For further information: Media contact: Eva Lannon & Associates, elannonassoc@gmail.com or 416.300.9721

RELATED LINKS
http://provincialadvocate.on.ca

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