Home French News Cuts, reduced workload at child protection agency

Cuts, reduced workload at child protection agency

Cuts, reduced workload at child protection agency

30% fewer children in care: Exec director

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The union representing workers at the newly amalgamated Child and Family Services of Grand Erie says the merger has cost the area about 30 staff from front-line child protection roles and administration.

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While the community was assured combining the agencies of Brant, Haldimand and Norfolk would improve services, instead the move has allowed the government to “strip back services”.

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“It’s a two-fold problem,” said CUPE Local 7070 president Kathleen Webb on Wednesday.

“It’s a lack of proper funding from the ministry and I’m unsure if they understand the complexities of the job.”

Webb said child protection in this area has become more challenging due to a lack of foster homes, especially ones that include needed treatment, and a lack of mental health programs for children.

That means child protection workers are likely to stay involved with families longer than usual.

And, says the union, there are six children or youth in care of the agency who are being kept in unlicensed foster homes, motels or hotels.

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“This can be dangerous for the children, youth and staff,” said a CUPE news release, “and it is incredibly expensive, with additional staffing needed to keep the children and youth supervised and safe.”

The union said a reliance on unlicensed homes costs the agency about $1 million each year.

“We talk about good service to our families and I don’t know how this is good service.”

That opinion is echoed by the former, long-time executive director for the former Brant Family and Children’s Services, Andy Koster, who was relieved of his duties prior to the merger. Koster had refused to make further staff cuts in the face of a budget deficit.

“It’s not the new agency’s fault,” Koster said this week.

“It’s a dysfunctional and punitive ministry funding formula that the auditor-general said in 2015 should be amended, but hasn’t been.”

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Koster said services to help marginalized children are in decline across the province and most CAS agencies are in a deficit position.

“So, cutbacks across the province will be even more devastating for many children and their families.”

Koster said 28 staff were cut four years ago and he believes the amalgamation process – which included forgiving the Brant agency’s budget deficit – cost in the range of $5 million.

Not true, says the current executive director of the merged agency.

Sally Johnson said in an email the amalgamation cost about $2.3 million – a bill covered by the ministry.

More importantly, she said that since the merger, the agency has seen substantial reductions in the workload: 30 per cent fewer children in care since April 2, 2022; 15 per cent fewer investigations completed; and 15 per cent fewer ongoing protection cases.

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She said the reduced workload is due to following a redesigned child welfare policy that focuses on referring more families to community services and a large cohort of youth over 23 who left the care of the agency.

“As a result, this past month, we proceeded with offering child protection workers a voluntary exit option.”

Johnson said six front-line workers took the offer and an additional management position was eliminated.

“At this time, we do not anticipate any layoffs of child protection workers. Our focus remains on ensuring the delivery of high quality services to children, youth and families, balanced with planning for the future sustainability of the organization.”

Johnson said there are ongoing discussions with the ministry about this year’s budget but no amalgamation costs have been paid out of the agency’s budget so far.

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“Should no additional amalgamation funding be received for this fiscal year, ending March 31, the agency will carry a deficit into the next year,” said Johnson.

The union says part of that deficit is due to ‘targeted subsidies’ – stipends that CAS agencies give very low-income families to assist.

“The Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services only covers 25 per cent of the subsidy,” said Webb, which leaves the bulk of the payments coming from the agency budget.

“CFSGE operated 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.”

Webb says those in the business see the future.

“We’re watching management make cuts. They’re going to create a crisis among workers here. What’s worse, they’re going to abandon families and children in need.”



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