It is likely that some of Ontario’s 47 Children’s Aid Societies will be merged in an effort to reduce duplication and waste. The head of the Toronto Children’s Aid society recently held a video conference with that Society’s 750 employees to brace for sweeping changes in the system that currently spends about $1.5 Billion annually. That works out to about $90,000 per year for each child in care.
The changes have been coming for a few years. In 2010 the Commission to Promote Sustainable Child
Welfare recommended mergers of Societies, not only as a cost saving measure, but make sure that children across the province get the same level of care. Last year the Auditor General’s report said there will still significant disparities in child protection care levels. For many years the Children’s Aid sector suffered from chronic deficits. Agencies would routinely finish the year in the red only to receive so called “emergency” bail outs from the province. The province not only put a stop to the bailouts but now obliges society boards of directors sign an agreement not to run deficits. In addition funding to the entire child protection sector has actually declined slightly since 2011.
In addition to reducing the number of CAS’s the auditor general recommends that a number of services like purchasing, recruitment and staff training be pooled across the system. Child protection expert Barry Lewis says reducing the number of CAS’s is only part of the answer. “Creating more multi-service agencies by amalgamating the separate agencies delivering child welfare, youth justice, developmental services and others, would also help integrate services while reducing the overall number of agencies across the province,” he recently wrote.
The Hamilton Children’s Aid society spends approximately $47 Million a year, fields 7,000 calls, launched 2,700 investigations and had 616 children in care as of its last annual report. Executive Director Domenic Verticchio says the system “is going to look very different in the next couple of years…but if it brings greater efficiencies—bring it on.” He says if the changes can bring better outcomes he looks forward to it.