Children's aid societies facing $28M cut in provincial funding
Many children's aid societies still reeling from multi-million dollar cuts in recent years
Children's aid societies across northeastern Ontario are bracing for budget cuts that they say could put more children at risk.
The Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies calculates based on the provincial budget that child welfare funding will be slashed by as much as $84 million later this year.
Of that it estimates that about $28 million could come directly from children's aid.
"I don't know where else we can make those savings," says Elaina Groves, executive director of the Children's Aid Society of the Districts of Sudbury and Manitoulin.
"And how do we do so without impacting on the very families that we're trying to serve? That's the big question and that's the one that leaves us with anxiety all the time."
Groves says there is a lot of anxiety waiting for their annual funding allotment from the province, which normally comes in the summertime, but last year came in October.
She says the Sudbury CAS has seen its budget drop by about $10 million in recent years, leading to 30 job losses, mostly related to the switching of funding over to Ontario's newly created Indigenous child welfare agencies.
But Groves says her workers are still being asked to do more with less, with children up to 18 now the responsibility of children's aid, and the shift to supporting children in their own homes boosting the workload for employees.
"So if we don't have the appropriate funding to do the job we need to do, the question says what do we cut? What do we change?" she says.
"Who doesn't get services?"
It's a similar story for the Children's Aid Society of Algoma, which has seen its budget reduced by about $3 million in recent years.
Executive director Kim Streich-Poser says they're carrying a $1.7 million deficit, largely because of severance payments made to the 15 employees they've been forced to lay off.
She says the cuts have made it difficult to meet the service standards set by the provincial government and she fears it could get worse if their funding is reduced even more later this year.
"There's a greater chance that we could miss something, and that's certainly a concern and a fear that we have," says Streich-Poser, adding that the Algoma CAS is considering further job cuts and the possible closure of satellite offices.
Finance Minister and Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli told CBC News this week that if provincially-funded agencies are having trouble finding efficiencies, his staff is available to help them.