Toronto – Children’s aid workers represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union are voicing their support for changes proposed in the Ontario government’s Bill 89, the Supporting Children, Youth and Families Act, 2016.
If passed, the bill will raise the age of protection from 16 to 18 to increase services for vulnerable youth, help children and families avoid crisis situations at home, and make services more culturally appropriate for all children and youth in the child welfare system, including Indigenous and Black children and youth.
“Children’s aid workers across Ontario have long supported giving children and youth more say in decisions that affect them, and Bill 89 should help make that happen,” says Jane Kaija, Chair of the Children’s Aid Sector of OPSEU. “As people who work every day with children and youth in care, and often in crisis, we see the measures in this bill as progressive ones.”
But Kaija cautioned that the changes outlined in the bill will only be meaningful if supported by new funding from the province. For example, she estimated that extending services to 1,600 youth over the age of 16 would require hiring approximately 100 new child protection workers.
“Assuming Bill 89 goes through, the 2017 Ontario budget will need to include significant base budget increases to support these changes,” Kaija said. “Strengthening early intervention and prevention requires paying for programs that have already been cut at many agencies, like parenting programs and sexual abuse programs. Right now, at least three agencies are in deficit and most of them are struggling to finance the new provincial computer network.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of OPSEU, underscored the need for funding.
“There is no shortage of good intentions in children’s aid,” he said, “and I want to applaud the Provincial Advocate, Irwin Elman, for his leadership in championing the changes in Bill 89.
“But right now, we have a government in Ontario that prides itself on having the lowest per capita funding for public services of any province in Canada,” Thomas said. “Until that changes, we’ll never be able to do the things we need to do.”
OPSEU represents some 3,000 children’s aid workers at 13 agencies across Ontario.
For more information: Jane Kaija, 705-705-677-8144; Warren (Smokey) Thomas 613-329-1931