Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Standard Systemic Responses Need to be Challenged

To ensure you read the latest version of this post, please visit http://www.fostercarenews.blogspot.com as this post may have been modified since being sent out.

While we were on the Ride for Accountability of Children's Aid Societies, one thing I always first tried to mention to reporters is that the Children's Aid Societies (CAS) and the Ministry of Children and Youth Services (ministry) will often respond to assertions that there needs to be external, independant oversight of CASs by the Ombudsman of Ontario by asserting that there are many different accountability mechanisms already in place.

I then try to clarify that one of those mechanisms, the Child and Family Services Review Board which is an ineffective and redundant smoke-and-mirrors tribunal created by the Ministry to give the appearance that there is a body for CAS clients to take complaints about the services they receive from a CAS.

The Ministry intentionally created the tribunal without any enforcement powers (no teeth) and kept its focus very narrow so as to only include administrative or procedural concerns clients have regarding a CAS or their staff and that when I inquired of the Board whether they have any power to enforce the orders they dish out to a CAS after hearing a complaint, they responded by stating that the Ministry exempted them from the Powers and Procedures Act, which gives most tribunals enforcement powers and other powers required to be effective.

I also mention that Crown Ward reviews are supposed to interview the children and their families to see if the status of the case has changed and if the children can be returned home, or if any other directives can be issued to a CAS regarding the case in the child's best interest, but that they merely do paper reviews, and those reviews are again, based on what the CAS has written rather than on feedback from the actual clients.

This is verified by statements made by Mike Stephens, executive director of the Chatham-Kent CAS who said to the Chatham Daily News "We have so much oversight it would take me all day to tell you them all." He continued to say "One of the checks and balances he cited was the Crown ward review undertaken by a team from the Ministry of Children and Youth Services. The ministry comes once a year, spends a week here and reviews the file of every Crown ward" He also stated that every file is measured against ministry standards and that if there is an issue, the agency has to either report back or act on a directive from the ministry.

As predicted, Stephens also said that the Child and Family Services Review Board (the tribunal) is an independent, "government established board" comprised of people who have no affiliation with the ministry or the CAS. He said it has the power to convene hearings and can order a CAS to change its decisions.

Again, what he fails to state is that the Board has no enforcement powers as planned by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services. When you review board hearing decisions at www.canlii.org under "Ontario/Child and Family Services Review Board" you will notice that quite often the board has to repeatedly order CASs to comply with their orders to no avail.

Only when people who talk to reporters about CAS and Ministry accountability start mentioning these things first (the board having no teeth because the ministry exempted it from the Powers and Procedures Act and how the CASs claim to have all of these accountability mechanisms without providing any hard evidence of them, how they work, who are involved, and their outcomes) will the CASs and Ministry responses begin to be forced to be a little more clear and specific rather than general and "safe" for them.


  1. Donald J. LesterTuesday, July 20, 2010

    The above article by the writer expresses the facts. What is concerning is that such rhetoric by CASs has been the imputes that keeps many who are advocating the need for change in the system circling like squires in a cage. Until we stop focusing on such half-truths by CASs and take what we know are facts and input our time and effort and demanding changes from the Ministry responsible we will continue to be squires in a cage.

    In as much as CASs need external independent oversight their defense will be and be supported by the Ontario government that they are a private corporation and as such will never allow themselves to be scrutinized by such, ombudsman.

    Change will only come about when the focus is directed on the Government. The questions of responsibility are the fiduciary responsibility of CASs is this province are that of the Provincial Government and not of the CASs. The CASs respond to such queries under their interests with regards to the corporation act. and as such their duty is to secure their interests of their Corporations. Where as the Ministry, Province, has the fiduciary duty to children and to the public of this Province.

    In short until we are prepared to demand and expect accountability from the province we will continue to be squirrels in a cage.

    For the past 30 years groups have focused their time and energy on CASs, a system the is embedded in it's corporate survival, which in many cases is contrary to the "best interest of the child" and does not have the fiduciary duty to children. Moreover, the Ministry, Province, continues to dupe the public by insinuating that such responsibilities are that of CASs. Here again we become the squirrels in a cage, refocusing our attentions back on CASs, rather than insisting that the Ministry, Government of Ontario assumes it's fiduciary duty and responsibility for the children in this province.

  2. This is an excellent comment Donald. Can you expand upon how people can go about changing their focus to the Ministry? What can people actually do that is within their means? Thanks in advance.

  3. Donald J. LesterTuesday, July 20, 2010

    In response to your question. How people can go about changing their focus to the Ministry?

    1) All advocates must stop focusing on CASs. We need to take all the energy and focus on the Ministry?

    A- take all complaints of CASs to the Ministry

    B- Take all protests of accountability to the Ministry.

    C- Take all abuses complaints to the Ministry.

    D- All rallies and protests on mattes of child welfare need to directed to the Ministry.

    E- Anyone with the wherewith all suing CASs need to add the Ministry as a party to their suit. Including the Ministry of Justice in cases where Family Courts have covertly or overtly aided, participated in an illegal act that resulted in some maligned action against an individual, parent or child.

    F- All complaints of CAS need to be sent to all Ontario members of Parliament.

    What can people actually do that is within their means?

    We need to refocus all the energy that is expedited on CASs on the Ministry responsible. Rather than protesting CASs we need to focus an Ministry offices as the are ultimately responsible for all acts taken or omitted by CASs; death, abuse, the filing of false affidavits, CAS's lies, unnecessarily removing children from their homes. Sanctioning Social workers as professionals" good faith clause, with no standards of accountability.

    That's for starters...we need not spend more, just refocus.

  4. Thank you for your detailed response. I feel this is an important topic to conduct an interview over the phone with you about and would like to know if you would be interested in doing so with me. If so, contact me at 613-220-1039