TORONTO—The minister who oversees Ontario’s Children’s Aid Societies says she’s disappointed a ministerial directive that caseworkers check the child abuse register isn’t always being followed—so she’ll issue another.
Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk reported Wednesday that in more than half of the cases she reviewed where a child had suffered abuse or there was an allegation of abuse, Children’s Aid Societies weren’t checking the child abuse register to see if there was a history of abuse within the family.
Children and Youth Services Minister Tracy MacCharles said she is very concerned those checks aren’t happening as often as they should.
“My ministry previously issued a directive on this to all Children’s Aid Societies in Ontario,” MacCharles said in question period. “I’ll be issuing another directive and following up very soon.”
But why a second directive would be effective where a first one was not, MacCharles couldn’t say.
“I hope by me saying, ‘It’s completely unacceptable that the directive is not followed’ it will be noticed,” she said after question period. “Anything less than that is completely outrageous and unacceptable in my books. One violation of the directive is one too many.”
MacCharles also said she is considering more drastic action, but would not elaborate.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath scoffed at MacCharles’ responses, saying the auditor’s report shows that nothing has changed from the deaths of Jeffrey Baldwin and Katelynn Sampson.
Jeffrey was five years old when he starved to death at the hands of his grandparents, who the Catholic Children’s Aid Society tasked with caring for Jeffrey and his siblings, unaware they were convicted child abusers.
A coroner’s inquest into Katelynn’s death is ongoing. Native Child and Family Services received calls about Katelynn, who was living with a couple who had a lengthy history while child welfare and several criminal convictions. Katelynn was beaten for months until she died of septic shock from her injuries at age seven.
“A minister can make all the directives under the sun, but unless she’s following up to make sure those directives are being implemented, then they’re not worth the paper that they’re written on,” Horwath said.
Many of the findings from this auditor general’s annual report are similar to the auditor general’s 2006 report.
In 2006, the auditor said that in one-third of the cases where a child should have been seen by a caseworker within either 12 hours or seven days they were not.
In 2015, the auditor said that in one-quarter of the cases reviewed children were not seen within that time.
In 2006, the auditor said that in about one in five cases reviewed, safety assessments were late by an average of 15 days, or were never even completed.
In 2015, the auditor said that in about one-third of cases reviewed, safety assessments were late or not completed.
In 2006, the auditor said that in about half the files reviewed, the full investigation was not completed within the required 30 days of referral.
In 2015, the auditor said not a single child protection investigation was completed within the required 30 days of being notified of concerns.
Mary Ballantyne, the CEO of the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies, said caseworkers are juggling many cases at once and the agencies are struggling with tightening finances.
“Trying to navigate all of that within a fairly tight timeframe is often difficult and what really, the workers are trying to do is make the very best decision in a timely manner and often that is very hard to do within the 30-day timeframe,” she said.
Ballantyne believes the statistics will get better once the Child Protection Information Network is implemented. The system that will allow Ontario’s 47 CASs to share information was originally supposed to be online by this year, but now won’t be fully in place until 2020.
When there is once central repository that workers can check it will be quicker than the various checks in various systems they have to do right now, she said.