Tuesday, December 11, 2012

CAS Transparency and Accountability Research Project

 The Foster Care Council of Canada will soon be launching its Children's Aid Society Transparency and Accountability Research Project to determine the level of transparency and accountability of the Boards of Directors of publicly funded Children's Aid Societies across Ontario, and to report our findings to the Premier, the Minister of Children and Youth Services, Ontario's MPPs, the Auditor General's office, the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, the Office of the Ontario Ombudsman, related and interested professionals, professors of Social Work, the media, related professional publications, and the general public through available distribution channels of the Canada Newswire and via the Internet.

Child welfare services in Ontario are currently provided by Ministry approved, privately incorporated, non-profit corporations, known as "Children's Aid Societies" which are governed by their own Boards of Directors.

The Ministers of Children and Youth Services and MPPs across the province either claim or believe, that each Society is governed by a community elected Board of Directors and that each Society has local oversight provided by the local community.

However, it has been the experience of many that this is not actually true. Each Society has their own by-laws which differ from the other Societies. Each Society has their own way of determining who gets to become a general voting member of the Society, and how members of the Board of Directors are chosen from the general membership to represent the views and opinions of the local community.

The problem is that most Societies do not advertise any information to the public as to how they can join the Society as a general voting member. They do not inform the public of the difference between being on the Board of Directors, and being a 'general' member of the Society who is not on the Board of Directors. They do not make public the schedule of Board of Directors meetings, whether the Board meetings are open to the public, how or if members of the public can attend and make presentations to the Board of Directors, what rights exist for 'general' members under the applicable statutes (Corporations Act / Not-for-Profit Corporations Act ) and more, including how or if 'general' members can obtain copies of the Society's corporate By-laws or Policies and Procedures manuals and detailed financial reports such as quarterly and annual financial reports to the Ministry.


The research project will ask each of the Societies in Ontario to answer the following list of questions and where required will follow up on their responses to clarify any ambiguities or attempt to fill in any omissions, intentional or otherwise.



ANNUAL GENERAL MEETINGS
  1. Does the Society currently make a complete copy of its corporate By-laws available to the public?
  2. How could a member of the public obtain a complete copy of the Society's corporate By-laws?
  3. Does the Society currently make a complete copy of its Policy and Procedures Manual available to the public?
  4. How could a member of the public obtain a complete copy of the Society's Policy and Procedures Manual?
  5. When, and at what location does the Society typically hold its Annual General Meetings?
  6. Are the Society's Annual General Meetings open to the general public to attend?
  7. In the past, how has the Society notified the general public of Annual General Meetings, and can you provide a sample of a previous public notice, or the wording of such?
  8. With the availability of technology today, will the Society notify the public of future Annual General Meetings via a notice posted on the main home page of their website/Facebook Page if applicable? 
  9. What matters can members of the public vote upon at an Annual General Meeting if they are not currently a general member of the Society? (But not a member of the Board)
  10. What matters can members of the public vote upon at an Annual General Meeting if they are a general member of the Society? (But not a member of the Board).
  11. Any time prior to an Annual General Meeting, does the Society make a copy of the Agenda available to the general public, and if so, how and when? 
  12. Any time after an Annual General Meeting, does the Society make a copy of the Minutes of the meeting available to the general public, and if so, how, and when?

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

  1. What are the first and last names, and professions of each of the members of the Society's current Board Directors?
  2. If a member of the public wishes to submit communications in writing to each of the members of the Society's Board of Directors, how can they do so?
  3. How can a member of the public who has submitted a written communication to each of the members of the Society's Board of Directors confirm whether each of the members of the Society's Board of Directors has in fact received their written submission?
  4. In what months, on what dates, at what times, and at what location does the Society's Board of Directors regularly meet?
  5. Are members of the public permitted to attend the 'regular' meetings of the Board of Directors? 
  6. In the past, how has the Society notified the general public of the 'regular' and 'special' meetings of the Board of Directors, and if applicable, can you provide a sample of a previous public notice of such, or at least the wording used? 
  7. With the availability of technology today, will the Society notify the public of future 'regular' and 'special' meetings of the Board of Directors via a notice posted on the main home page of their website/Facebook page or via Twitter?
  8. What Committees/Subcommittees/Working Groups etc. exist under the current Board of Directors?
  9. When and how do these Committees/Subcommittees/Working Groups Etc. meet and can the public attend their meetings?
  10. Does the Society allow members of the public to obtain copies of the agendas and minutes of the Board of Directors meetings for each year and if so, how?
  11. Does the Society allow members of the public to obtain copies of the agendas and minutes of the Committees/Subcommittees/Working Groups etc. meetings for each year and if so, how?
SOCIETY MEMBERSHIPS

  1. What classes of membership does the Society currently offer to the members of the local community (ie: 'General', 'Honourary', 'Life Time', 'Youth')
  2. How does the Society currently promote Society memberships to the members of the local community?
  3. What is the difference between a Society membership, and being on the Board of Directors of the Society?
  4. How does a member of the local community become a member of the Society?
  5. How does a member of the local community become a member of the Society's Board of Directors?
  6. What is the annual cost of membership with the Society?
  7. When are annual memberships to be renewed each year?
  8. What are the rights and privileges of members of the various classes of membership available? (non-Board members)
  9. What written instruments (By-laws, statutes/regulations/policies etc.) outline the rights and privileges of the various classes of members of the Society?
  10. How can members of the local community gain access to the instruments mentioned in question 9 above?
SOCIETY BY-LAWS AND POLICIES

  1. What is the title of the document which contains the policies and procedures of the Society?
  2. Who is responsible for the creation and upkeep of the Society's policies and procedures?
  3. Does the Society provide access to its policies and procedures for members of the local community and if so, how?
  4. Does the Society provide access to its policies and procedures for its clients (both children/youth and their families) and if so, how?
 ACCESS TO RECORDS FOR CLIENTS POLICY

  1. Does the Society have a policy which governs client access to their records held by the Society?
  2. Does the Society make public its policies on client access to their records held by the Society and if so, how?
  3. If the Society does not have, or does not make public its policies regarding client access to their records held by the Society, please explain why not.
  4. Will you provide the Foster Care Council of Canada with a copy of the Policies regarding client access to their records held by the Society
  5. Will you make public copies of the Society's policies regarding client access to their records held by the Society, and if so, how?

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