Upgrading children’s aid workers’ skills makes sense

Posted on April 10, 2016 in Child & Family Delivery System

TheStar.com – Opinion/Editorials – The Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies plans to upgrade the skills of children’s aid workers in response to a recommendation from the Jeffrey Baldwin inquest.
Apr 10 2016.   Editorial

Jeffrey Baldwin’s death horrified Ontarians and led to calls for a wholesale review of the province’s child protection standards. The 5-year-old died in 2002 at the hands of his Toronto grandparents, neglected, abused and starved to death.

That prompted a decade-long round of soul-searching in the child protection community, after it came to light that workers from the Catholic Children’s Aid Society had failed to check the society’s old files that documented the grandparents’ previous convictions for assaulting their own children before Jeffrey was placed with them.

Now, at long last, the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies is responding to an inquest into Jeffrey’s death with major reforms. It is beefing up training for child protection workers, setting province-wide standards, and looking to eventually have a professional college regulate them.

That matters in a province with no fewer than 47 independent child protection agencies.

As the Star’s Sandro Contenta and Jim Rankin report < http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2016/04/03/childrens-aid-societies-launch-major-training-reforms.htmlreport >, under the planned system new recruits will have to pass eight standardized courses and a final exam during a four-month training period before they are authorized to fully perform child protection duties. Right now workers are authorized to perform all duties as soon as they are hired.

As well, the association is in talks with the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers, which regulates more than 17,400 people involved in social work, to bring Ontario’s 5,160 child protection workers under its umbrella. All of the college’s members have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in social work. But only just over half of the child protection workers do. So the association and college are looking into setting up training and courses that would equal a degree, and moving in the direction of requiring all eligible staff to be registered with the college.

Says association president Mary Ballantyne: “We want to make sure that the people who are doing the work have the very best training and competence to be able to do it.”

Ultimately the idea is to have child protection workers become members of the college. The college would regulate their practices, standards and ethical codes. It would also have the power to investigate complaints from parents and to discipline workers for professional misconduct or incompetence.

That opens the door to a tussle with the Canadian Union of Public Employees, who represent some of the workers. CUPE argues they already have high levels of oversight that include workplace supervisors, family courts, coroners’ inquests and annual case audits by the ministry.

Be that as may be, Ontario has an obligation to do what’s best for vulnerable children such as Jeffrey Baldwin. That should be the guiding principle, going forward.

< http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2016/04/10/upgrading-childrens-aid-workers-skills-makes-sense-editorial.html >

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