How one Ontario child welfare agency is fighting to fix a broken system


When Dawn Flegel took over Sarnia’s children’s
aid society in 2012, she went on a listening 
stint about the child-  weal
system that left her feeling appalled.  
At roundtables,  kiddies described
brutal conditions. Being stigmatized. Feeling isolated.   One 
sprat said he felt like an capture in his group home and that he’d
rather be in jail.

We did n’t hear from a single  youthful person that group homes were good
for them, ” said Flegel, administrative director of the Sarnia- Lambton
Children’s Aid Society( CAS) in southwestern Ontario.   Broad changes were  demanded, she resolved, and she made them.

In 2015, Flegel and her associates created an
ambitious plan called “ Chasing Zero ” – zero group homes, zero  kiddies growing up in care.     Until 
also, Sarnia CAS was admitting 
kiddies into the child-  weal
system at a  youthful age and bouncing
them around placements until they “ 
progressed out ” at 18. Some of the 
kiddies lived in foster homes, while others were in group homes.   Group homes in Ontario are  substantially run by for- profit companies.
They hire rotating shift workers to look after 
kiddies who ’ve  educated abuse,
have complex  internal- health  requirements or, in some cases, are
orphaned.   It’s  insolvable for  kiddies to find any sense of family or
belonging in them.  Group homes would
be  excluded. kiddies would no longer
spend times in the system.

Rather, her 
platoon would prioritize “ 
association ” placements – keeping 
kiddies with cousins or  probative
grown-ups they  formerly knew. Foster
homes would only be used when that was n’t an option.   The 
plutocrat saved by not using group homes – roughly$ 4 million annually –
would be moved to  forestallment and
early intervention services meant to keep 
kiddies out of the child-  weal
system in the first place.   They ’d
help  floundering families by doubling
the number of support workers and “ 
furnishing  plutocrat,  occasionally paying for  effects like daycare, paying for  effects like comforting, ” Flegel said.

” she said.  
A original driver of group homes pushed back, filing a action against
Sarnia CAS when it stopped using its services, claiming breach of contract and
damages in the  quantum of
roughly$,000.   Despite being sued,
Flegel was  loyal in her conviction.   By February 2019, they reached their
first  thing zero  kiddies in group homes.

The achievement is “  unequaled 
” in the  fiefdom, according to
Kiaras Gharabaghi, one of Canada’s foremost experts on child  weal. 
“ But no bone  has sustained that
for four times, and no bone  The number
of  kiddies in care has dropped as
well.  There’s  further work to be done, she said.

preliminarily, youth living in two Sarnia- area group homes were “
disproportionately ” represented on the youth court’s  program. The CAS’s changes stopped
criminalizing  kiddies for “ social
problems, ” she said, leading to smaller 
kiddies appearing in her courtroom.

A troubled track record at group homes

A yearlong 
disquisition by Global News  set
up poor conditions at group homes across the 
fiefdom, including  parcels
in  countries of  seediness, limited food and apparel
budgets,  expansive use of physical  conditions, and allegations that  kiddies were overmedicated.   Former workers from some group homes  contended the companies operating them were
more focused on  gains than meeting  kiddies ’ needs.   “ They ’re 
veritably  delicate places to find
comfort, to find nurture, to find a sense of safety that goes beyond physical
safety, ” said Gharabaghi.

Global News canvassed  the administrative directors of several CASs
who felt these homes were still  demanded
in exceptional circumstances for youth with “ complex  requirements. A  exploration paper by Gharabaghi  set up that staff members supported the idea
of keeping  kiddies with cousins, but felt
that group homes could  occasionally help
stabilize  kiddies with “ serious  internal health issues. ”   They 
expostulated to the policy’s 
dictatorship.   Flegel pushed

The child- 
weal system needs to “  suppose
more creatively ” and find ways to give children the support they need in their
own homes, Flegel maintained. When child protection  enterprises arise, placing them with cousins
is the coming stylish option, she said.  
Sarnia CAS is n’t the only agency now 
fastening on  association placements
– there’s been a shift toward them across Ontario.   But it has n’t always been this way.

A decade agone 
threat- antipathetic CAS workers would 
generally place  kiddies in foster
homes they ’dpre-screened or government- 
certified group homes. Only 
latterly would they “ work backward ” to see if cousins could  watch for the 
kiddies, Flegel said.

Keeping kids in families

She ’d just used up her motherliness leave after her son’s birth.    Stephen is a boilermaker and an ironworker.
He  generally works in the  oil painting refineries and
petrochemical  shops just south of
Sarnia, but with the  ménage down to just
his income, he’s decided to take a job for the coming many months at the
Darlington Nuclear Generating Station, 350 kilometres down. It means he ’ll be
living down from Rebecca and the  kiddies
for days or weeks at a time.

Stephen and Rebecca Krall’s family may not have
been kept together only a many times agone 
In the playroom of their estate- style home in Petrolia, roughly 25
kilometres southeast of Sarnia, three 
kiddies played  bottom hockey with
atomic sticks on a chilly Sunday  autumn.
Another three  lolled on the  settee, one playing a  videotape game while the others watched.

Families like the Kralls ’ fall under what
the  fiefdom calls “  association serviceAnother government
program, Ontario Works, gives them$ 274 per month for the first child they take
in, and$ 224 for each  fresh one.   That’s far 
lower than the  quantities given
to foster parents and group- home drivers. Foster parents get roughly$ 900 a
month per child, while group homes are paid an 
normal of$,500 per month.  
numerous “  association ”
caregivers are retired grandparents on fixed 
inflows. The  quantum offered to
them to  watch for cousins just is n’t
enough, according to experts.   In terms
of  furnishing for  association families, Global News  set up Ontario to be among the least-generous  businesses.

Sarnia CAS: a victim of its own success

kiddies placed with cousins in  association service arrangements are n’t
considered to formally be “ in care ” by the government, as children in foster
or group homes are.  The Ontario
government  finances CASs  incompletely grounded on the number of  kiddies each agency has taken into care.
Because of its focus on  forestallment
and keeping  kiddies with cousins, Sarnia
CAS’s budget has declined by$1.2 million over the  once decade.  
The agency had a  deficiency last
time and faces another this time.

In a statement, Ontario’s Ministry of Children,
Community and Social Services said its backing model “ provides( children’s
aid) societies with full  fiscal
inflexibility to  concentrate on
supporting children in their own homes by working  nearly with their families and caregivers,
rather than bringing them into society care. ”  
While Flegel agrees her agency has the “ inflexibility ” to use its
government backing as it sees fit, she said it’s still  entering “ 
lower  plutocrat overall. ”   The 
fiefdom also defended how 
important backing is given to 
association families, saying “ children’s aid societies may choose
to  give 
fresh  fiscal support to  association service caregivers ” beyond
the$,000 annually set out in government directives.   The catch is that the government only allows
children’s aid societies to offer 
further backing to these families if they’ve a budget  fat. And Sarnia CAS does n’t.


Leave a Comment