CAS overburdened but trying, says minister
TORONTO - Ontario's Minister of Children's Services, Brenda Elliot says her government is taking steps to keep pace with a huge increase in the number of children coming into the care of the Children's Aid Society.
Monday, Ontario's child advocate, Judy Finlay, warned the scramble for beds in foster and group homes is putting some children at risk. Finlay says children are being forced into homes with inadequate standards and inadequately-trained staff.
FROM AUG. 5, 2002: Shortages of foster, group homes putting children at risk
The number of children in care has risen by 70 per cent since 1995, largely due to changes in provincial legislation to make it easier for social workers to apprehend children.
But Elliot says her government has doubled the child welfare budget in response.
"We've been putting resources in the Children's Aid Society, we've been putting resources in homes. We've been building new homes to try and meet needs," says Elliot.
"Of course, demand is always growing. We have been very diligent and working very hard to try and meet those demands."
Elliot says her government is also implementing a six-point plan to restrict the use of physical restraints, and improve training and standards in group homes. The plan was announced last year, in the wake of an inquest into the death of a teenaged boy who was improperly restrained.
But Liberal social services critic, Michael Gravelle, says the plan won't go into effect until next spring, after an inquest into the death of another teenager who was restrained.
"The government has responded, but I don't think they are responding quickly enough, nor with enough resources, including the resources for training."
Gravelle says the government also needs to boost wages in group homes, to reduce the high turnover in staff. As well, he'd like to see the province take a lead role in monitoring private foster and group homes, which he says are falling between the cracks.