On a day that should be celebrated for achievements made in child protection and treatment, Ontario is shortchanging its most vulnerable young people by failing to provide adequate funding for their needs, says the president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.
"Today, November 20, is National Child Day across Canada," said OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas. "But the track record here in Ontario is one marked by a funding shortfall, cutbacks in services and insufficient staff levels to meet the growing demand for child protection and treatment."
This year alone, Ontario is faces a $42 million funding shortfall to the CAS. To balance their budgets local agencies are forced to cut staff and programming at many CAS locations.
OPSEU, which represents more than 6,000 workers with the Children's Aid Society and other child treatment agencies, is marking National Child Day by organizing noon hour "block walks" and other activities that will draw attention to the province's neglect of the needs of vulnerable children and their families. The public will be asked to sign postcards to the Minister of Child and Youth Services, Laurel Broten, demanding that Queen's Park restore funding in order to protect and restore programs at risk.
The problem is particularly severe in Waterloo Region where the local CAS has been forced to eliminate almost 30 staff positions in order to cover a $2.5 million deficit.
"What our government doesn't seem to understand or chooses to willfully ignore is that behind those dollar figures are real children facing real mental, social and physical challenges in their lives," said Thomas. "When you take away those dollars in the name of austerity and deficit-busting a child and their family are negatively impacted. Is this the sort of legacy our government has chosen to adopt?"
Greg Hamara, OPSEU Communications, 647-238-9933