When two agencies amalgamated to form Child and Family Services of Grand Erie, CFSGE, it was sold with the promise that it would improve support for families. Two years later, that lie has been revealed as the agency announced layoffs and gapped positions that they have no plans to fill. All told, the agency will soon be down roughly 30 positions since they merged

“There were consultations with workers and community meetings, interviews with the media and press releases. And they all said the same thing: that combining agencies would improve services and better equip us to deal with the challenges families are facing. We’re about to lose a significant number of workers. How does that better serve our communities?” said Kathleen Webb, an access coordinator with more than 20 years’ experience and president of CUPE 7070 representing more than 200 frontline workers and support staff at CFSGE. “It’s time we recognize that what they sold us isn’t working. Instead of efficiencies, it’s been chaotic. Instead of cost savings, the management complement has increased and with new job titles come increased salaries. And instead of meeting the needs of community members, they’re stripping back services.”

CUPE 7070 ratified their first collective agreement in October. CFSGE is blaming workers and wages, in part, for the more than $3.35 million deficit and layoffs but the math doesn’t back their story.

Right now, there are six children and youth in CFSGE’s care that are being kept in unlicensed homes. Instead of a regulated treatment facility or licensed foster home, they spend their days and nights in hotels or motels. This can be dangerous for the children, youth, and staff – and it is incredibly expensive with additional staffing needed to keep the children and youth supervised and safe. This reliance on unlicensed homes alone costs the agency roughly $1 million a year, nearly enough to bridge the deficit.

Then there’s the question of targeted subsidies, which are stipends agencies provide to families whose income falls below a certain threshold. The Ministry of Children, Community, and Social Services only covers 25% of the subsidy. But CFSGE operates in a more depressed area and provides more subsidies than most agencies, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars that, if the government updated their funding model, could be better spent on services.

“Our employer talks about our manageable caseloads, but each case is a child or family in need that will have to be redistributed to another worker,” said Webb. “We’re seeing a workload crisis at nearly every child protection agency in the province. Now we’re watching management make cuts and we know the outcome. They’re going to create a crisis among workers here. What’s worse, they’re going to abandon families and children in need.”

CUPE 7070 is asking all community members and allies to send a message to the ministry, asking them to provide the additional funds needed to stave off layoffs. Visit https://cupe.ca/CFSGE to learn more.