Bailey set to leave Elgin child agency
By JANE SIMS
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,
Copyright 2002, The London Free Press.