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A Strategy for Sustainable Child Welfare in Ontario. McGill Centre for Research on Children & Families 1 st Dec 2010 Dr Wendy Thomson McGill School of Social Work For internal CRCF reference only. Today’s presentation. Introducing the Commission Child welfare in O ntario Today

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a strategy for sustainable child welfare in ontario

A Strategy for Sustainable Child Welfare in Ontario

McGill Centre for Research on Children & Families

1st Dec 2010

Dr Wendy Thomson

McGill School of Social Work

For internal CRCF reference only

today s presentation
Today’s presentation
  • Introducing the Commission
  • Child welfare in Ontario Today
  • A vision for sustainability
  • What needs to Change
  • A Four tiered strategy

Introducing the Commission

  • Launched in November 2009 by the Minister for MCYS
  • A 3 member Commission with a 3 year mandate to develop and implement solutions to promote the sustainability of child welfare.
  • Reports to the Minister, has legal powers to issue directives, and make recommendations to the Minister.
  • The Ministry’s rationale for the Commission
    • Rapid sector growth over the last decade has not been fully offset by increases in volumes or in growth of the child welfare population.
    • Government fatigue with successive years of MCYS requesting end-of-year “mitigation” for CAS deficits
    • 2006 Auditor General’s Report casting doubt regarding the management of child welfare in Ontario (both within MCYS and CASs)
    • Concerns regarding outcomes for children in the care of CAS
    • Recognition within MCYS that the sector was not well understood in terms of cost drivers, sources of variance, outcomes and overall performance



Increase in Expenditures and Staffing not Explained by Increases in Service Volumes

1998/99 to 2008/09

Overall increase in expenditures on child welfare (when adjusted for inflation) over the last decade has been more than double the increase in service volumes.

* Expenditures are based on real 1998/99 dollars assuming a constant CPI of 2.5%



Poorer Outcomes for Youth In Care

The data in the table below compiled by MCYS heightened concerns regarding the significantly poorer outcomes for youth in care than for the general population. Note that data is not available on outcomes for the 80 to 90% of children who are served by CASs in their own homes. Similarly, we have not yet compared these outcomes with youth who have grown up in lower income communities which is the comparative demographic group for the majority of CAS clients.

These statistics are not direct comparisons as they are not based on controlled sampling within single research projects.

a Total Canadian population

b Of the 30% of former Crown wards who became pregnant at an early age, 60% became re-involved in the child welfare system as parents.

Source: MCYS Briefing on Child Welfare Outcomes,


the commission s core principles
The Commission’s Core principles
  • A focus on children, youth and families
  • Transparency
  • Objectivity based on evidence and lived experience
  • Iterative, action-oriented process
  • Boldness
  • A spirit of partnership
  • Respect for diversity
  • Recognition of the unique needs of aboriginal children & communities
child welfare in ontario today
Child Welfare in Ontario Today
  • 53 CAS serving 120,000 families & 310,000 children each year
  • Close to 6.4 million days in substitute care
  • Over 18,000 children in care (foster homes, group homes, residential treatment facilities)
  • About 90% of children served by CAS are at home with their families
  • About 1,000 adoptions through CAS annually
  • 8,800 CAS staff
  • Hundreds of volunteers – drivers, tutors, special friends, etc.
  • Over 800 volunteer board members of CASs and Foundations.
policy context for child welfare
Policy context for child welfare
  • Shifting choices on key dimensions of child welfare:
    • Mandate:
      • Protecting children – supporting families
    • State’s role:
      • least intrusive - more intrusive
    • Service organisation
      • Stand alone protection – integrated childrens’ services
    • style of decision-making:
      • Professional judgment – codified, rule-based procedures
recent policy trends in ontario
Recent policy trends in Ontario
  • To 1990s, a ‘least intrusive’ bias, child welfare functioning independently, intervention relying on discretion of child protection workers and supervisors.
  • Late 1990s, following a series of high profile child deaths, sees Child Welfare Reform moving to a more intrusive and proactive approach, emphasis on child protection and more standardised approaches to risk assessment. A move to ‘multi-service’ agencies in some areas.
  • in 2006 the Transformation agenda – more balance between protection and support, more emphasis on collaboration, some recognition of community-based approach to aboriginal child welfare (“customary care”), continued emphasis on universal standards and tools.

Impact of Policy shifts From 1998/99 to 2003/4 (a result of Child Welfare Reform) :* Children coming into care increased rapidly.* increase in CiC plus administrative and regulatory demands – resulted in rapid escalation of costs.* Child welfare spending increased at 3 times the rate of all other Ontario government program spending (next slide)


From 2003/4 to 2008/9, the result of the Transformation Agenda:

  • New policy directions, such as differential response, kinship, permanency, arrested the growth in CiC;
  • spending growth returned to levels consistent with other Ontario funded programs.
  • Current funding
  • allocations to CAS determined by a 14 factor funding formula designed to incentivise transformation agenda and cover volume increases.
  • formula results in variations - increases of 4% to decreases of 10% - in 2009/10; and difficulty with the size of the overall funding envelope ‘capped’.

Child Welfare Growth versus Other Sectors

1998/99 to 2008/09(% increase based on constant1998/99 dollars)

Child welfare spending growth in the last decade has outstripped all other sectors – however, the “Pre-Transformation” and “Post-Transformation” story is quite different.

Child welfare spending growth prior to Transformation outstripped all other sectors

Growth since Transformation is slightly less than other sectors

Note: Expenditures based on constant 1998/99 dollars


trends in aboriginal child welfare
Trends in Aboriginal Child welfare
  • Very different service trends for aboriginal children –
    • Far more intrusive
    • Far more children in care
    • Despite CFSA provisions, many placed out of homes and communities
    • 6 designated agencies, 7 working to become designated.
    • Facing challenges of remoteness, mismatch in scale of needs and agency capacity and funding
a systemic approach to child welfare
A systemic approach to child welfare
  • Our scope is child welfare, but ….
    • Families face obstacles from separately delivered programs, with own mandates, access criteria, and institutional obstacles.
    • Universal services don’t service most vulnerable well - schools, health care
    • The “welfare of children” is a shared responsibility, not just CAS.
a vision for sustainable child welfare
A Vision for sustainable child welfare

A Future in which a modernized child welfare system functions as one of many programs working together to provide integrated, child-focused services fully aligned to improve outcomes for children.

the case for change
The Case for Change
  • Variable capacity amongst CAS
  • Variable CAS service models and culture
  • Variability in legal processes and delays
  • Insufficient inter-CAS collaboration & system-wide focus
  • Focus on Compliance rather than performance & outcomes
  • Too much expected of a funding formula
  • Fragmentation and poor coordination of MCYS functions
much more to do
Much more to do….
  • The Commission released its first report, in Ontario July 5, 2010. The report examines Ontario’s child welfare system as it stands today and how its policies, funding and service delivery have grown and changed in the past ten years:
  • Towards Sustainable Child Welfare in Ontario (full report)
  • Executive Summary
  • Unique Considerations for Aboriginal Youth and Children
  • Working papers:
  • http://www.sustainingchildwelfare.ca/the-commissions-work/

Working Papers and Backgrounders

  • As part of its principle of “transparency”, the Commission publishes working papers and backgrounders to share some of the basis for recommendations and directions that arise from its work.
      • Jurisdictional Comparisons of Child Welfare System Design
      • Working Paper: Reducing Administrative Burden in Child Welfare
      • Background Paper: Serious Occurrence Reporting
      • Background Paper: Modernizing the Tracking of High Risk Child Protection Cases