Ontario Government Cuts Force Children Services Employees To Resign During Ongoing Opioid Crisis

The president of the Brant Children Services board says “it is no longer possible to fulfil our mandate” in the current climate.
Ontario Government Cuts Force Children Services Employees To Resign During Ongoing Opioid Crisis

The entire board of directors of an Ontario Family and Children’s Service has announced in a press release cited by CTV News that it intends to resign on Friday in response to persistent funding cuts implemented by the provincial government. Brant Family and Children’s Services (FACS) has been operating in the Brantford region of Ontario since 1894, caring for those children under 16 and their families who need assistance. However, enforced restrictions brought about by a lack of provincial government funding means that the FACS directors feel they are unable to continue to provide the same quality of care.

Brant FACS has been facing a struggle for some time and was forced to lay off 26 employees back in March, according to HuffPost Canada. Executive director Andy Koster said at the time that dozens of more children were coming through Brant FACS’ doors than at the same point 12 months ago as Ontario’s opioid crisis continues. He added that a sobering 22 Brant FACS-housed children had lost a parent to a drug overdose in the preceding 18 months.

“This crisis is terrible,” said Koster, as quoted by the Brantford Expositor. “On one team, we have workers dealing with over a dozen expectant addicted moms who will give birth in the next month.”

Now, Koster has told HuffPost Canadathat he believes he would have been cornered into laying off up to 30 further employees to comply with the provincial budget. Brant FACS has been about $3 million in debt over the last couple of years, something which appears at odds with Ontario’s desire to curb deficit spending."

The Board takes (protecting children) very seriously and we believe that government underfunding has put the safety of our community’s vulnerable children at risk," Board of Directors President Paul Whittam said in part in a statement, as reported by CTV News. "It is no longer possible to fulfill our mandate."

CTV News reports that reduced funding since 2016 has led to pay freezes and layoffs at the organization and that the board of directors lays the blame firmly at the feet of the Ontario government.

According to the Brantford Expositor, the board felt there was no alternative to resignation as individual directors would have become financially responsible for the agency’s sizeable deficit.

However, in a statement quoted by CTV News, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services insisted multiple governments have tried to help the situation.

"In fact, our ministry and the Board participated in an operational review, completed in June 2019," says Christine Wood. "The review raised several significant concerns which our ministry is addressing.”

CTV News’ report suggests those concerns included a decrease in the number of investigations carried out by Brant FACS in recent years, an apparent surplus of full-time employees, and a reported lack of evidence of a connection between the opioid crisis and the FACS’ financial problems.

In turn, Brant FACS claims this was the final nail in the coffin as the review reportedly recommended further reductions in services and staff.