While the provincial government says they are not forcing the Children’s Aid Society of Algoma (CAS) to cut child welfare programs they continue to refuse to fund the agency at a level to keep vital programs open. Due to funding shortfalls local child protection program closures are going forward.
“What’s getting lost in the funding tug of war between the agency and the provincial government are programs that support kids at risk and keep families from sliding into crisis. Two important programs are being cut because the year-end funding the province provided does not cover operational costs,” says Melissa Guild, CUPE 1880 Group VP representing the workers at CAS Algoma.
For months, CAS agencies across Ontario have highlighted a collective budget deficit of $67 million at 37 agencies. Threatened looming program cuts are now a reality in Algoma. Last week, Children and Youth minister Laurel Broten announced $22.5 million in ‘mitigation’ funding for 26 agencies – including Algoma – to pay for existing operational budget shortfalls. Despite a projected Algoma CAS deficit of $2.5 million Algoma only received just over $1.4 million from the mitigation dollars.
“That’s not enough to sustain programs” says Guild “CAS Algoma has announced program cuts to balance their budget, on the direction, says Algoma management of the MCYS ministry.”
On the chopping block are two programs – the Family Preservation Program and the Diversion from Care Program – that keep children with their families, with needed supports rather than in costly institutional care.
Child protection workers at the CAS Algoma believe that provincial legislation changes to improve children safety and care are positive and have resulted in CASs being better able to protect and support vulnerable children. While agencies and workers have worked together to better support children and their families the Provincial Government has not funded at a level to support their own legislation.
“How can cutting programs such as the Family Preservation Program and the Diversion from Care Program be good for children?” says Guild. “We are calling on this government to step up – protect programs that protect children. We’re calling on Minister Broten to save these programs and secure increased long-term base funding for CASs in the upcoming provincial budget.”
“Until funding is fixed in a way that includes long-term base funding for these programs, it will be the same scenario next year-end. With the current funding formula there will never be adequate dollars for these critical programs that keep children safely with their families whenever possible rather than coming unnecessarily into care of the agency. And that’s a shame, because it’s these types of programs that are good for children and also actually save money in the long-run by keeping children out of institutional care. Ultimately these cuts hurt children,” says Guild.
For information contact:
Melissa Guild, CUPE 1880 CAS Algoma Group VP: 705-971-8393
Chris Watson, CUPE Communications: 416-553-9410