Harris government announces more support for vulnerable children
QUEEN'S PARK, TORONTO, Feb. 14 /CNW/ - The Harris government is investing an additional $123 million to protect children from abuse and neglect, Community and Social Services Minister and Minister Responsible for Children John Baird announced today. This funding increase brings total spending in this area to over $772 million a year - an increase of more than 100 percent over five years.
The new funding, which will be distributed to the province's 53 Children's Aid Societies, follows a $114 million increase in annual funding announced in last May's provincial budget. The money allocated to each Children's Aid Society is determined by the number of children being served in the community.
"Ensuring the safety and well being of vulnerable children in need of protection is a priority of our government," said Baird. "It's our goal to help every child get a good start in life - to help every child realize their full potential."
The new funding will help children's aid societies respond to increased service demands resulting from greater public awareness of child abuse and neglect, and the strengthening of the Child and Family Services Act.
"Children's Aid Societies face difficult challenges day in and day out and this additional funding will help us better protect the children we serve," said Jeanette Lewis, Executive Director of the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies.
Today's announcement is the latest in a series of measures taken by the Harris government to improve the child protection system. In an event at Queen's Park, Baird used the word "SAFE" as an acronym to highlight these measures. They include:
Better Service: The introduction of improved standards, common assessment
tools and a computer information database means better service to
Increased Accountability: Steps have been taken to monitor the
implementation of new initiatives and ensure better outcomes for
Improved Funding: A new way of funding children's aid societies has been
introduced that better reflects workload and service needs, and
additional funding has been provided to hire more front-line staff and
increase rates for foster parents.
Enhanced Education: Improved training programs have been developed for
children's aid society boards and staff, foster parents and ministry
"Our child welfare reforms have led to significant improvements in all key areas of child protection," said Baird. "And we will continue to improve the system so that vulnerable children are protected from abuse and neglect."
The Harris government spends more than $772 million a year on child protection, with total funding more than doubled since 1995.
The Ministry of Community and Social Services increased funding to children's aid societies in 2000-2001 by $123 million in one-time funding and $114 million annually. In 1999-2000, the ministry allocated additional one- time funding of $106 million to children's aid societies. Additional funding of $170 million over three years was announced in 1998 to help children's aid societies hire more child protection staff, improve training and revitalize foster care.
A new approach to funding that better reflects the workload and service needs of children's aid societies was introduced in December 1998. The new funding framework, developed in consultation with child protection experts, distributes resources in a way that is fair and equitable.
Children's aid societies have been able to hire over 1,500 new child protection staff since 1995 as a result of increased funding and the introduction of the new funding framework. This represents an increase in staffing of 68 per cent.
The first major changes to child protection laws in over a decade were passed in 1999. Amendments to the Child and Family Services Act make it clear that the best interests of children must come first, while providing stronger tools for the courts, professionals working in child protection and front-line workers to do their jobs.
A common risk assessment system is now being used by all children's aid societies. The system helps child protection workers make better judgements about whether a child is at risk.
A province-wide computer information database has been installed in all children's aid societies. This technology allows child protection workers to track high-risk families wherever they move and to alert the system to past involvement with a children's aid society.
Minimum basic rates for foster care parents have been increased from $14 to $25.71 a day. A provincial training package for foster parents is being developed to ensure a consistent standard of foster care across the province.
Testing of an improved training program is under way for all newly hired child protection staff, experienced workers and supervisors. Approximately 400 new workers will be trained annually in a 12-week program and approximately 1,500 existing workers and 500 supervisors will receive two to three days of training each year to enhance their skills.
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For further information: Contacts: Dan Miles, Minister's Office, (416) 325-5215; Dianne Lone, Ministry of Community and Social Services, (416) 325-5156; For more information visit http://www.gov.on.ca/CSS.