Shortages of foster, group homes putting children at risk
TORONTO - Ontario's Child Advocate, Judy Finlay, says a shortage of beds in foster and group homes is putting a growing number of children at risk.
Finlay says the number of children being placed in care has jumped, and now they are being put in homes that provide substandard care or where staff are inadequately trained.
Finlay says the number of complaints about conditions in homes doubled between 2000 and 2001. Some of those complaints are about the inappropriate use of medications or physical restraints while some homes have been closed down altogether.
But Finlay says there's pressure to ignore problems.
"It's a catch-22. We have been closing group homes where their standards are not at the point where we feel kids will be safe. But then we have a backlog of kids who have nowhere to go," says Finlay.
"We have - in this province - situations where kids are being managed in a hotel or motels because there are not group homes available with the capacity to manage these kids."
The provincial government says it has doubled the number of foster and group home beds in Ontario while more than doubling the amount spent on child welfare.
The province has also introduced a plan to provide more training for staff, to raise standards, and ban the use of phsyical restraints on children, except for in extreme circumstances.