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LFP: Bailey set to leave Elgin child agency

Date: DEC-19-02
Source: London Free Press
Keywords: public scrutiny, investigating powers enhanced
Comment: link is dead; please email editor if you find a live one.
Posted: JAN-25-03
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Bailey set to leave Elgin child agency

After more than 20 years at the helm of Elgin County's child welfare agency, Steve Bailey is retiring. Bailey, 55, executive director of Family and Children's Services St. Thomas and Elgin County, plans to leave next spring. A longtime social worker and child advocate, Bailey was in the hot seat during the recent corporal punishment debate involving a Church of God family from Aylmer. He says the controversial case had nothing to do with his decision to leave. For the last several years, his employment has been secured through a series of contracts. He renewed a two-year deal in early 2001 and told the board he intended to leave once it expired.

It was a few months later he met the Aylmer family that became a lightning rod in a national debate over corporal punishment. "I can't say it was a very enjoyable experience dealing with public scrutiny," he said yesterday. "Dealing with high-profile cases is very, very stressful from an administrative perspective." But the issue needed to be aired and "it was only a matter of time until one family ended up being the family on which the issue was focused," he said. He says he has "a great sense of compassion" for the family. If the agency had to be involved in a prominent case, it was better that it had been this one rather than one involving serious injury or a child's death.

Bailey said the last four years have seen wide-ranging changes in how child protection agencies across the province do their jobs. Investigation powers have been enhanced and there has been a dramatic shift in funding. He worked on a provincial committee that pushed for the changes. "It allowed us to do what we thought we could in terms of trying to implement our own vision of what we wanted for child protection services," he said. However, there are still large numbers of abused and neglected children in Ontario communities, he said, and it's difficult to see where any gains have been made. "The population is growing and, unfortunately, we haven't been able to get a handle on social problems, family problems, family violence, child abuse, neglect, poverty." Still, over the past 30 years there has been a greater recognition that children are the best witnesses to abuse and neglect, Bailey noted.

Copyright 2002, The London Free Press.

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