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Keeping more at risk children safe the priority, say child protection staff — Coroner’s jury recommendation to assess workload lauded.

Child protection staff, today, lauded a key recommendation of a coroner’s jury inquest whose findings were released yesterday into the fire-related death of Diane Anderson and two of her children, calling for the province to study the impacts of workload on the delivery of quality services to at risk children and their families.

The coroner’s jury recommendation supports repeated calls from the child welfare sector – including front line staff and employers – for the Ministry of Children and Youth Services (MCYS) to measure the impact of workload, which includes caseload, on the ability of child protection workers and agencies to adequately assess risk factors and visit and supervise families and children on a regular basis while meeting all legislated requirements.

For many years, child protection staff have been very clear with MCYS that, in order for them to be pro-active and keep children safe while meeting all the legislative accountability requirements, workload needed to be measured and kept in check. The coroner’s office has told the ministry the same thing. We are hopeful the minister will act quickly on the workload recommendation to help prevent any more needless deaths,” said Fred Hahn, the Ontario president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents about 4,000 staff at the majority of Ontario’s 53 children’s aid societies,including the front line staff of the Toronto Children’s Aid Society (CAS).

Child protection workers represented by CUPE are very supportive of legislative changes made in 2005-2006 by MCYS largely in response to previous coroner’s jury recommendations. They have also consistently advocated for increased access to prevention programs to keep families from spiralling into crisis, and improved communication between CAS agencies and intersecting services in the community. 

In addition to recommendation #13, which calls on MCYS to fund an independently-conducted workload study of CASs, the coroner’s verdict outlines a series of recommendations relating to risk assessment, linkages and communication between service providers, referrals and wait lists, which are also tied to manageable workloads.

A decade ago, CAS employers, CUPE and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, conducted a sector-wide workload survey. However, the ministry refused to accept the survey results and the ensuing recommendations for system changes. 

The goal of the child welfare staff, who I know personally, is to keep children safe. These dedicated workers have, for many years, advocated for changes that would allow them increased time for home visits and to review case files. Now, the coroner has made some recommendations that support similar changes. The province should listen and act before any more children and families slip through the cracks,” said Hahn. 

For more information, please contact: 

Fred Hahn                  
President, CUPE Ontario                  
(416) 540-3979

Stella Yeadon            
CUPE Communications                    
(416) 559-9300