DRYDEN, ON – Told by the province to carve 2.1 per cent from baseline budgets in 2012, child welfare agencies across Ontario are reeling, trying desperately to deal with an increase in the volume of investigations while they have less money to spend on each child in need of protection.
In its 2012 report, the umbrella agency that speaks for Ontario’s children’s aid societies (CASs) estimates that there is a $67 million gap between, what the government funds CASs at and how much funding they actually need to deliver child welfare, children’s mental health and other services that support families in crisis and protect vulnerable children from neglect and abuse.
The funding gap is even more pronounced for northern CASs like the newly merged Kenora Rainy River Districts Child and Family Services, said front line staff at a media conference today at the office of area MPP Sarah Campbell.
“While the high cost of delivering services in a vast geographic area is a constant challenge for us, we are faced with new stresses. The merger is creating instability because the province has not given adequate funding at a time when front line staff are supporting families dealing with the fallout of a prolonged period of job loss, mill closures and economic crisis on our communities,” said Don Pearson, the president of Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 2332.
According to provincial government population statistics, in 2011 the highest share of children under 14 years old in Ontario was found in the Kenora census division at 21.4 per cent. While the figure will decline slightly, by 2036, the provincial census projects that, the Kenora area will still have – at 20.6 per cent – the highest share of children under 14 than any other pocket of Ontario.
“We believe that like us, our new Premier wants all children to be safe from abuse. But our catchment area is the largest in the province and the consequences of inadequate funding are compounded here,” said Christine Hampton, a child protection worker at the agency. Because services and resources are scarce, workers, said Hampton, often travel for hours to facilitate supervised visits between a child and a parent or to access a program.
Programs that help parents learn effective and safe parenting skills or support children and parents dealing with mental health or substance abuse are proactive and better protect children.
“But it is these programs that aren’t being funded under the current funding model,” said Hampton who along with Pearson and other front line staff, delivered signed Valentine hearts they want Campbell to present to Ontario’s new Premier, once the Legislature resumes next week. The cards are symbolic of the heart and dedication child welfare staff put into protecting at-risk children and, call on the Premier to act with her heart and rectify the underfunding for services and supports in northwestern Ontario.
For more information please contact:
Don Pearson, President, CUPE 2332: 807-466-1078
Christine Hampton, CUPE 2332: 807-938-1906
Stella Yeadon, CUPE Communications: 416-559-9330