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Child protection workers join province wide protest


For the approximately 15 workers who walked in front of the local Family and Children"s Services (FCS) offices on Wednesday, it is a simple proposition.

"It"s paperwork versus people work," Brian Carnovale said.

Carnovale, a family services worker with the Leeds and Grenville FCS branch in Gananoque, and secretary for the workers" union local, OPSEU Local 441, said front-line family services workers with Ontario"s Children"s Aid Society (CAS) branches simply can"t provide the type of care they see fit with the amount of paperwork they are currently required to do.

"We are bombarded with cases," he said, noting the average caseload for a front-line CAS worker is 21 families. "You can imagine what kind of service this is when we"re not able to see our families."

Vicki Holmes, a family services worker with FCS of Leeds and Grenville, shared some per-s onal examples of what her workload is like.

"Every day I have to make some kind of compromise," she said, adding the decision often comes down to falling behind on paperwork or canceling in house visits with families. "I"ve been given a job to do and not enough time to do it."

Holmes has been with the local FCS branch for over three years. She said she spent a few years prior to her employment here working for a senior support agency in Montreal.

"I would love to have that workload back, and I had 80 clients there," she said. "I have 25 cases here and can"t keep up."

She said she makes a point of seeing her clients at least once a month, which often means falling behind on her paperwork — a situation she said she is currently in.

Carnovale said Ministry of Children and Youth Services guidelines stipulate that family services workers need to see their clients a minimum of every 90 days. It"s an inadequate benchmark, he said.

"It"s an atrocious standard," he said. "That would be four times a year."

But it isn"t just the high volume of paperwork and lack of time with their clients that bothers the workers, Carnovale said. He said the workload is causing a host of associated issues, such as burnout.

"There has been as much as 10 per cent of our agency on sick leave with stress at one time," he said.

This was the second year that the local workers have staged a spring protest regarding these issues. In June 2010, they hosted a barbecue in response to comments attributed to Minister of Children and Youth Services Laurel Broten asking the agencies to start taking on their own fundraising.

But in a letter to The Recorder and Times published June 11, 2010, Broten said she did not make that suggestion.

"While I have always encouraged children"s aid societies to work with community partners to provide services to children and their families, our government does not expect children"s aid societies to fundraise in order to deliver child-protection services," she said.

In the letter, Broten said the Liberal government had pumped an additional $337 million in funding into children"s aid societies since it was first elected in 2003.

She also referred to 2010 as "a transition year for CASs in Ontario" and said the Commission to Promote Sustainable Child Welfare was touring the province to collect input from front-line workers.

But Carnovale remains unimpressed, saying workers are concerned with the fact the agencies" fiscal year began in April and workers have yet to hear what the financial structure for the year will be.

In the meantime, he said, CAS workers want the ministry to recognize the importance of their work, something he says it isn"t currently doing.

"We"re protecting society"s most vulnerable people -children," he said. "We want to draw attention to this."

Broten could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Her press secretary and issues manager, Julia Goloshchuk, issued a statement on her behalf via an e-mail to The Recorder and Times on Wednesday evening.

"The Commission to Promote Sustainable Child Welfare has made recommendations to reduce administrative burden, which we have acted on," she said. 


CAS workers protest workload

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SOCIAL SERVICES: Union urges better funding

By The London Free Press

Local Children"s Aid Society workers are set to protest outside their workplace, prompted in part by their concerns over contentious provincial funding levels.

Members of OPSEU Local 116, which represents workers with the CAS of London & Middlesex, will protest outside their Oxford St. headquarters Wednesday to draw attention to what they consider serious concerns.

"We care about the kids," said Michele Halle, president of Local 116.

The union"s concerns are focused on two key elements:

  • The "unsustainable" workload facing all CAS workers, the fallout of which "trickles down to the children and youth we support," Halle said.

  • The looming closing of London"s last two group homes, which house youth between ages 12 and 18 who may not be suitable for foster care or privately run group homes that can turn away children with serious issues.

The two group homes have space for a combined 16 people. The union fears that without the homes the youths could end up in shelters that are unsuitable for people their age.

The group home closings are part of a larger budget crunch at the city"s CAS, which Halle says is prompted by inadequate provincial funding.

The protest is set for noon Wednesday at the CAS office at 1680 Oxford St. E.


Children"s Aid workers want more staff

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Children"s Aid workers protest. OPSEU Local 334 President Jennifer Smith stands beside fellow Children"s Aid Society workers Jon Winslow and Elizabeth Rodney (Local 334 vice-president) as they protest along Chemong Road Wednesday afternoon. The union wants more staff hired to help deal with workload issues. Joel Wiebe

Union representing employees protests out front of Chemong Road office Wednesday calling for more staff to be hired to help ease workload

June 1, 2011

(PETERBOROUGH) Members of OPSEU Local 334, representing local Children"s Aid Society workers, protested out front of the Chemong Road office Wednesday.
Local president Jennifer Smith says the protest was to bring attention to what the unions sees as employees working too many hours, many of whom are having to use evenings to get work done. "We don"t feel the kids and families are getting the quality of service they deserve," she states. The answer, she adds, is hiring more staff


CAS employees face workload worries

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Christine Rutherford and about 50 other child protection workers took part in an “information demonstration” downtown Sudbury June 1.

Jun 02, 2011

By: Jenny Jelen – Sudbury Northern Life Staff

Christine Rutherford was joined by about 50 other child protection workers from the Children"s Aid Society (CAS) June 1 for an “information demonstration” outside the government offices at 159 Cedar St.

She said workers decided to rally to address the workload facing child protection workers.

In Sudbury, there are about 200 front-line workers dealing with 20 to 30 families each.

Rutherford said having such an exhausting caseload means workers can"t always give families the attention they need, which is a problem.

“It"s trying to do quantitative work in a qualitative environment,” she said.

Due to the different complexities of each case, Rutherford said there isn"t an “ideal” number of cases each worker should have, but less than 20 would be a good place to start.

Reducing workers" caseloads would be a step in the right direction to deal with the “crisis” currently facing CAS workers.

Rutherford said the goal of the demonstration was to encourage government involvement in redistributing workloads.

“We don"t have all the answers,” Rutherford said. “But we do have suggestions we want to consult with the ministry about.”

At the end of the day, Rutherford said the organization simply wants to “put children first,” and have the time and resources to do so.


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CAS staff hold rally over workloads

Posted 17 hours ago

About 20 OPSEU workers with the Kawartha Haliburton Children"s Aid Society held a rally outside the organization"s Chemong Rd. offices Wednesday, protesting the impact increased workloads have on service delivery.

Jennifer Smith, president of Local 334, said the rally was part of a province-wide initiative, aimed at raising awareness about workload issues.

The issue isn"t about overworked employees, she said, but that new standards have led to increased workloads, which in turn is affecting the standards and quality of service families and children are receiving.

"It"s having an impact. They deserve better," Smith said.

OPSEU was encouraging the government to develop a workload study and examine the impact workloads were having, she said.

Local 334 represents about 100 employees in Peterborough, Lindsay and Haliburton and Smith said about 20 attended the rally Thursday at noon.

"Most people were too busy to attend," Smith said, adding that a lot of employees are working through their lunch hours and into the late evening.