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National Child Day: a salute to frontline workers

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas issued the following statement today to mark National Child Day, November 20.

Dear friends:

Twenty-seven years ago, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention was a “promise to children that we would do everything in our power to protect and promote their rights to survive and thrive, to learn and grow, to make their voices heard and to reach their full potential,” in the words of UNICEF.

On November 20, OPSEU recognizes the child protection, children’s mental health, and children’s treatment workers who dedicate their lives to improving the lives of children in Ontario.

This year the province passed the Child, Youth and Family Services Act (CYFSA).  The act formally recognizes that children’s services ought to be grounded in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The act aims to place the child at the centre when they are the subject of, or receiving services through, the child welfare, justice, or education systems. This principle means that each child should be given the opportunity to participate in decisions that affect them.

OPSEU supports this principle. Unfortunately, the actual changes proposed in the bill are very minor. They do not live up to the promise of the preamble. We need a vision that ensures that provisions within the act truly address the social, economic and health needs of children.

Children’s Aid Society workers have a seen a steady decline in their ability to provide direct services to children and youth due to an administrative burden that is growing exponentially, especially with the implementation of the new Child Protection Information Network.

Children’s mental health workers struggle to deliver the care that they want to provide in the face of program cuts due to chronic underfunding; skyrocketing hospitalization rates; and, long waiting lists for treatment that continue to grow.

Today we honour the systemic advocacy work that our members engage in, through their union, to better the lives of children. We need a comprehensive rethink of how services are delivered to vulnerable children. We need a bold and courageous vision – one that is more than merely aspirational.

In solidarity,

Warren (Smokey) Thomas

President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union