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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

When Would You Have A Wolf Looking After The Sheep

Of Course, Outsider should handle CAS complaints, this only makes perfect sense.

Doug Millroy, editor emeritus of The Sault Star

In nine provinces there is ombudsman oversight of non-governmental organizations providing critical public services such as child protection.
Ontario isn’t among them.
In Ontario, Children’s Aid Societies are virtually a law unto themselves.
There is no oversight, the only province in which there isn’t.
There is a formal complaints process for clients, but these complaints are handled internally.
There is no formal process in which someone from the outside can complain.
In his annual report in 2012, Ombudsman Andre Marin said, “the Ombudsman of Ontario's authority with respect to this sector is the most limited in Canada.”
He said attempts have been made since 1975 to change this but since that time all efforts have been thwarted by successive governments.
This, of course, includes the Liberals, Progressive Conservatives and NDP.
But now the provincial NDP, working from the outside, are hoping to garner enough support from within the other parties to change all this.
Monique Taylor, the party’s children and youth services critic, has reintroduced her private member’s bill that, if passed, would grant the Ontario Ombudsman oversight of Children’s Aid Societies.
Taylor’s original bill had passed second reading last year, but it died on the order paper when Dalton McGuinty prorogued the legislature in concert with his resignation as premier.
“Many CAS decisions can have a life-or-death impact on society’s most vulnerable youth,” the Hamilton Mountain MPP said in a news release. “Families need an independent route they can take if they have a complaint and the public needs to know that an independent body can investigate when things go wrong.”
She said too often we hear tragic stories about children in care:
“Five-year-old Jeffrey Baldwin, who starved to death after being put in the care of his grandparents, both with previous convictions for child abuse;
“Katelynn Sampson, who was murdered at the age of seven by her guardians – a couple with a history of drug use and violence;“more recently, a young woman suffered years of sexual and physical abuse at the hands of a single man with a criminal record in whose care she had been placed by the CAS.
“These are just some of the horrific stories we have heard that cry out for rigorous oversight to protect our most vulnerable children,” Taylor said.
“The government must to do the right thing: grant Ombudsman oversight so we can truly protect these children, because a child’s home is not supposed to be a dangerous place.”
Yes, I think most of us will agree, the government should do the right thing, but will it?
As Marin pointed out in a piece he wrote for The Toronto Star in June 2011, just a month earlier Child and Youth Services Minister Laurel Broten had stated in the legislature, as others had before her, that Children’s Aid Societies are already subject to “rigorous oversight.”
“I think it’s important for families right across the province that might be watching to understand that we have a very rigorous variety of oversights that allow you, as an individual, to come forward with a complaint if you do have one with respect to a children’s aid society,” Marin quoted Broten as saying.
But he said that although it was a comforting statement, sadly it was one that did not reflect the reality confronted by the thousands of parents who have complained to his office — precisely because they found their efforts to “come forward” thwarted.
“Every year my office is forced to turn away hundreds of people complaining about children’s aid societies,” he said in his piece in The Star.
“We are powerless to investigate these cases. Since I first raised the issue in the spring of 2006, we have received a total of 2,587 complaints about children’s aid societies. That’s more than 2,500 people we have been unable to help.”
With those kind of complaint totals about the CAS coming in from across the province, I would say it is obvious something must be done in regard to oversight.
Lawyer Jennifer Tremblay-Hall agrees with Taylor and is forwarding information to her regarding a recent experience she had with the CAS in the Sault.
She says she was basically brushed off when she complained to the CAS about the conduct of one of its workers toward a 16-year-old girl Tremblay-Hall was representing at a bail hearing Feb. 19.
The girl, who had been in the child-protection system since she was seven, had been charged with assault after being involved in an altercation with a parent in a foster home.
Tremblay-Hall said the worker in the presence of the Crown said she wanted the girl, who had never been in trouble or in a custodial environment before, to be berated by the judge.
Tremblay-Hall said when she accompanied the worker to the cell area, instead of sitting down and speaking with the distraught girl, who was behind plexiglas, the worker stood and berated her, pointing a finger at her while doing so.
Tremblay-Hall said she considered this to be bullying so she intervened, saying that was enough. She said the CAS worker then began pointing a finger at her.
“She was very emotional,” Tremblay-Hall said.
In a letter of complaint to the CAS, Tremblay-Hall said that later, when the girl appeared in bail court, the worker expressed openly her “disappointment” with her and attempted to influence how the court should deal with her.
She said the CAS worker was “emotional and demeaning” in her dealings with the girl.
“I found (the worker) to be a bully,” she said in a letter to Nancy LeBlanc, supervisor of children’s services.
As correspondence flowed between Tremblay-Hall and the CAS over the next month, Tremblay-Hall received replies from LeBlanc, John J. Rossi, a lawyer for the CAS, and Kim Streich-Poser, executive director.
They all said the matter had been addressed internally, but gave no details.
In her letter, Streich-Poser said the society’s formal complaint process is available only to clients, but anyone can send in information or make the society aware of a complaint and they will be taken seriously.
She said she was satisfied Tremblay-Hall’s complaint had been properly addressed and dealt with.
Having no idea what “properly addressed and dealt with” means, Tremblay-Hall naturally disagrees and as a result is forwarding the correspondence regarding her complaint to the NDP.
She believes an outside agency should investigate complaints against the CAS, just as another agency such as the OPP is called in to probe complaints against city police.
I strongly agree.
All MPPs should put partisan politics aside and support Taylor’s private member’s bill, which will put our province in line with others when it comes to oversight of child-protection agencies.
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