Child protection services that help children, youth and parents at risk are being cut in communities across Ontario because the provincial government is underfunding child welfare services, according to the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario. At a rally at the union’s annual convention in Niagara Falls, CUPE Ontario President Sid Ryan called on Minister of Children and Youth Services Deb Matthews to stop service cuts in Niagara and other regions by providing adequate funding to the sector.
“It’s impossible for child welfare agencies to provide the quality support and protection to at-risk children and youth when they are forced to cut services, cut staff and cut programs because of serious underfunding,” said Ryan. “This Liberal government passed legislation focused on restructuring of child welfare services to promote best practices. The problem is they have not provided the funding to agencies to make best practices a reality.”
The Windsor Essex Children’s Aid Society (WECAS) has ceased funding for residential services for Transitional Aged Youth (TAY) placed with Community Living Associations, according to Cathy Matthe, President of CUPE 2286 representing workers at the Windsor agency. She added that more Windsor services are vulnerable because of predicted deficits and the Ministry requirement to submit balanced budgets.
Last month, Family and Children’s Services Niagara (FACS) announced it will cut two Best Start and Early Learning and Parenting programs and a day care centre, affecting 100 children and parents. That follows cuts to its entire first response team, which provided a high level of support to children and youth. “Funding shortfalls force agencies to cut non-mandated services and understaff mandated service in order to cut costs,” said Carolyn Taylor, CUPE Local 2328 President representing the workers at FACS. “As workers, it is heartbreaking to see children and families lose these vital supports.”
“The Niagara Early Learning and Parenting programs made me the parent I am today,” said Heather Laquerre, who addressed over 700 CUPE Ontario members at the rally with her four-year-old daughter at her side. “In these times when families are stressed, we need these programs and supports to provide for our children’s needs. The Ministry of Children and Youth Services must not abandon us now.”
Ryan added that the underfunding of the sector is resulting in loss of jobs and burnout of workers. “Agencies and workers are doing the best that they can to work with families to try and keep them safe and together. Now it’s up to the Minister to do her part and provide the necessary levels of funding to support and protect children, youth and families at risk.”
For more information, contact:
Sid Ryan CUPE Ontario President 416-209-0066
Carolyn Taylor CUPE 2328 President 905-704-0223
Cathy Matthe CUPE 2286 President 519-996-4438
Valerie Dugale CUPE Communications 647-225-3685