Twenty-eight million dollars is slated to be cut from Ontario’s Children’s Aid Society. Some welcome cuts that may result in less children being taken into care, especially if they had a child unjustly taken into care at some point. Others may welcome them as cuts to the “liberal fat” left behind after Wynne.
Be very cautious supporting these cuts. The problems with child protection services in Ontario are structural in nature, meaning standardized risk assessments, unrealistic performance indicators, a lack of regulation and oversight in a privatized sector has left our child welfare system vulnerable to systemic oppression.
A funding cut won’t fix this problem but will instead exasperate it. Less workers administrating the same broken system opens the door to heavy caseloads, ineffective snap decisions by unregulated workers, and more costly open family court cases. Workers just won’t have time to engage parents and mandated performance indicators means some workers may be directed to initiate unnecessary court proceedings if an investigation last longer than 30 days. Couple this with the 30% cut to Legal Aid services announced earlier this year, and it spells certain harm for many Ontario children.
Wynne was on the right track, sort of, when she tabled the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, which mostly came into effect in 2018. However, the new legislation only included regulation for higher level employees and not front-line workers who deal directly with families. It also keeps the sector private, which puts the most vulnerable population in Ontario at arm’s length from the province, away from public sector accountability and transparency. The legislative privacy section in the new child protection law that includes provisions such as being able to request your own personal information, won’t come into effect until 2020. That is, if King Ford doesn’t repeal and replace the new legislation by then.
A complete overhaul is needed to Ontario’s Children’s Aid Societies. This means more funding for the sector, not less. We need better legislation to regulate and protect front-line workers and better recourse for families who may fall victim to systemic oppression by overworked and underfunded agencies. Child protection work is hard and usually thankless work. It takes a strong person to do it and an almost super-human ability to be good at it. Cutting costs will result in devastating harm to children. Supporting these cuts, supports that harm. Our children deserve better.