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Children's Aid Society of Ottawa, union say crucial funding needed from government

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A rare show of solidarity Tuesday when the Children's Aid Society of Ottawa (CAS) and the union representing its workers joined forces to call on the Ontario government to deliver more funding amid what they say is a crisis that has reached a breaking point.

"It's like nothing I've seen before. You know, every year I've said this, it's a crisis. It's a workload crisis, people are struggling," said Michele Thorn, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) local 454.

Thorn said 16 people with CAS-involvement have died in the past year.

"If we have a certain number of investigations to do, we go in and we don't have the time to continue to do follow up, for example, we have to close the file and move on to the next. So we very likely can miss things."

Union executives and the CAS are calling for more staff and increased funding.

"For Ottawa, what we're calling upon the government is investments in social and economic infrastructures within community to meet that early or kind of preventative early intervention need for families so that they don't have to relinquish care of their child to a children's aid society," said Kelly Raymond, the executive director of the Children's Aid Society of Ottawa.

Raymond said families seeing mental health, addictions and supportive housing services are among those turning to the CAS for help, but that's not its funding envelope.

"That work goes unfunded. So that gap will only increase in communities across the province."

In a statement, the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services says it is "redesigning the child welfare system to focus on high-quality services that prioritize safety, are culturally appropriate and are responsive to the needs of children, youth and families."

It adds it has "increased funding by approximately $14 million for child protection services."

Arlette Carrier, the president of Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) local 2577, representing workers at Family & Children's Services of Lanark, Leeds and Grenville says the impact on children is immense.

"They're just being warehoused. Sometimes in hotels, in cots in the office. We have some children's aid societies who have trailers parked there in the parking lot. It's very, very costly because you're paying people around the clock to be staying with them. It's not safe for the workers. It's not safe for the kid and… the kids are not getting any the treatment or the education or the family life that they deserve," she said. 

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