CAS needs help now

TheStar.com – Opinion/editorial – CAS needs help now
Published On Sun Nov 22 2009

In less than a month, an agency that cares for some of Ontario’s most vulnerable children in northern First Nations communities plans to close its doors because it can’t afford to pay its bills.

Payukotayno James and Hudson Bay Family Services is not alone. The vast majority of our children’s aid societies are facing budget shortfalls because the province has changed the funding rules.

Premier Dalton McGuinty is aware of Payukotayno’s financial troubles and says his government is setting up a commission to look at how to make these agencies more financially sustainable.

CAS funding has nearly tripled over the last decade to $1.4 billion and yet the outcomes for many children in state care are still not good. Most would agree that a commission to look at what is driving up costs – provincial regulations, the demands of the job or operational inefficiencies – is worthwhile.

But the commission has not even been set up yet, let alone begun its work. And agencies like Payukotayno’s, which plans to lay off its staff on Dec. 16, need answers now.

As MPP Gilles Bisson (NDP, Timmins-James Bay) warned last week, “There will be no one there to answer the phone when a family, a child or a police officer calls in trying to deal with a child at risk.”

McGuinty and Children’s Minister Laurel Broten have to take immediate steps to ensure that does not happen.

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