Hot! CAS funding formula changed in ’90s

TheStar.com – Opinion/Readers’ Letters
Mar 16 2013. Doug Evans

Re: CAS staff asked to keep cased open to retain funding, March 14

The Star missed this story by almost 15 years. In the late ’90s the current funding formula for child protection agencies, which based the entire annual funding of every Children’s Aid Society on case numbers and activities from the previous year, was instituted. At the time, I was a supervisor of ongoing family services for one of the larger Toronto CAS’s, and there was an immediate sea change in the focus of our operations. All of the supervisors and directors were brought to the head office for instructions as to how we were to respond to the funding formula. The summary statement to the gathering was: “From now on it’s all about the numbers.”

These changes were fundamental and far more insidious than simply stretching out the life of a few cases for an extra month. They included opening even the most dubious reports for quick (but nonetheless intrusive) investigations, where previously less intrusive community-based monitoring had been informally arranged. Because all intake investigations were funded equally, the formula also restricted labour-intensive, time-consuming but essential investigations where evidence was not immediately clear but risk was clearly high, as these investigations were not remotely remunerated through the formula. For similar reasons, court cases frequently were folded in agreements that left children at risk, but avoided costly court procedures. In the foster department, children were hastily removed from the intensive placements they had earlier been determined to need, but whose costs exceeded the maximum, and transferred to placements that did not meet their requirements but did not exceed the formula’s remuneration cap.

Children and families in Ontario have suffered the costs of these changes for well over a decade. The problem outcomes for clients outlined in the article doesn’t begin to address the full extent of the damages to which “numbers based” decision-making has led.

Doug Evans, Toronto

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