Jun. 17, 2002. 01:00 AM
Peel CAS takes on extra cases
Tougher law means more child neglect reported
By Mike Funston
A major rise in the Peel Children's Aid Society caseload is due in large part to tougher legislation on the reporting of suspected child abuse, executive director John Huether says.
Six inquests into the deaths of children in Ontario in 1997 and 1998 — including 3-year-old Kasandra Shepherd of Brampton — sparked a series of provincial reforms aimed at providing stronger protection for children following emotional pleas by the coroners' juries.
"The definition (of abuse) is broader and more clearly identifies neglect as a reason we can consider to protect children," Huether said.
Kasandra died of a severe blow to the head from her stepmother, Maria Shepherd, who was later convicted of manslaughter. At the time, the child was under Peel CAS supervision as a result of previous allegations of abuse.
"The (Shepherd) case has had a significant impact upon the professional community here in Peel Region in terms of there being a greater recognition of their obligations to report suspicions not only of physical abuse but other forms of child maltreatment," Huether said.
The new Child and Family Services Act that went into effect on March 31, 2000, also boosted reporting requirements and increased provincial spending on child welfare from $442 million to $748 million.