Sudbury

Children's aid societies in northeast worry COVID-19 is making troubled kids 'invisible'

Children's aid societies in northeastern Ontario are worried that their phones have stopped ringing during the COVID-19 lockdown.

CAS workers being 'extremely creative' in how they help families during pandemic

The Manitoba government is ending its funding for Brightscape Endeavours Inc. after a third party review found "significant deficiencies" in financial management. (Getty Images)

Children's aid societies in northeastern Ontario are worried that their phones have stopped ringing during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The Nipissing-Parry Sound CAS normally gets about 25 calls a day, but executive director Gisele Hebert says last week they only got seven.

"Stress in families must be at an all time high. We have individuals who have lost their employment, been laid off, so there's huge financial stress," says Hebert.

"So we're really concerned about the fact that kids are not visible in our community."

For the Children's Aid Societies of the Districts of Sudbury and Manitoulin, executive director Elaina Groves says calls are down about 10 per cent, but urgent calls where children might need to be removed from a home have remained the same and domestic violence calls are up. 

"The safety net for children is gone. The eyes of schools, neighbours, doctors are not on them," says Groves.

Child welfare officials are asking the public to be more vigilant about how children in the community are doing.

Groves says that 97 per cent of children who are in the system remain at home and her agency's job is to support those families through tough times. 

Elaina Groves is the executive director of the Children's Aid Society for the Districts of Sudbury and Manitoulin. (Erik White/CBC )

That's become more difficult with COVID-19 restrictions, forcing social workers to speak with children through windows and inspect the cleanliness of homes through photos and videos.

Hebert says biological parents are now visiting their children in care through Skype and Facetime, which isn't ideal, but maintains a vital connection for those families.

She says workers are being "extremely creative" in how they do their jobs, including delivering groceries for some clients.

Both say the longer the lockdown goes on, the more difficult it will be to keep children safe. 

"It's those we're not hearing about that we're most concerned about," says Hebert. 

"That becomes increasingly concerning as this goes on and we have no idea when this is going to end."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Erik White

journalist

Erik White is a CBC journalist based in Sudbury. He covers a wide range of stories about northern Ontario. Connect with him on Twitter @erikjwhite. Send story ideas to erik.white@cbc.ca

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