The president of the union representing workers at the Windsor-Essex Children’s Aid Society is calling recently announced cuts to the agency, “a move that will only do further harm to an already vulnerable population in our community.”

Craig Hesman, president of Local 2286 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE 2286), which represents 350 Windsor-Essex Children’s Aid Society workers, expressed his disappointment about the announcement of 12 layoffs and the elimination of 23 positions in total. “This is an already short-staffed and underfunded agency. The need for child protection services is on the rise in Windsor and Essex County and across the province. We should be raising staffing and service levels to meet those needs instead of making children and families in our community suffer.”

Many of these cuts are to positions that make Windsor-Essex Children’s Aid Society more effective in assessing which children are in need of agency care. “We are losing people who are doing some of our most valuable work, whose roles include assessing if it is appropriate to bring children into care and educating children to recognize behaviours in their homes that might be a cause for concern.” Hesman said, “Some of these staff assist in sustaining families and protect children through situations of high stress and reduce the incidence of admissions into our care, which is a cost savings to the agency.”

The union also expressed its surprise at the timing of the announcement. “We don’t know what is behind these layoffs since we don’t know the financial situation of the agency at this time. It’s still early in the fiscal year,” said Hesman, “but what we do know is that we need to have an effective organization that addresses the needs of our community. We should be seeing staffing and service increases. It is very concerning that we are going in the opposite direction. The Ministry needs to take immediate action.”

Carrie Lynn Poole-Cotham, Chair of CUPE Ontario’s Social Services Committee, made a further call for something to be done to address the cuts. “The fact of the matter is, if we need more people on the front lines to strengthen preventative programs for families and protect children in our communities, then we need to talk about funding,” she said. “The Ministry of Children and Youth Services is currently conducting another funding formula review due to the current flawed model. However, the Windsor-Essex Children’s Aid Society is cutting staff in advance of even having their funding allocations confirmed from the province. This is a premature decision. We need transparency on funding and spending within the agency. Decisions like these should be made with the aim of maintaining programs and services. It is time for the province to address how to properly fund these services.”