TORONTO, March 24 /CNW/ - 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
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
- 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:
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