Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)

February 04, 2014 09:43 ET

Ontario children and youth minister urged to attend Jeffrey Baldwin coroner's inquest closing submissions

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Feb. 4, 2014) - The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents 3500 front-line child welfare staff across Ontario, is urging the Minister of Children and Youth Services (MCYS), Teresa Piruzza to attend coroner's court this week to hear first-hand the closing submissions of those parties with standing at the Jeffrey Baldwin inquest. Five-year old Jeffrey died in 2002 while in the custody of his maternal grandparents. A coroner's inquest into the circumstances that led to Jeffrey's death began on September 9, 2013.

Despite the clear link between provincial legislation and policy decisions on day-to-day child protection work, MCYS surprised and disappointed many in the child welfare sector when the ministry did not seek standing at the inquest.

By attending the inquest and listening to the closing submissions and recommendations "the minister would send a clear message that the well-being of vulnerable children and youth is a priority for her government," says Nancy Simone, a child protection worker for over 20 years and president of CUPE 2190. "This would go a long-way to rectify the absence of MCYS as a party with standing at the Jeffrey Baldwin inquest and the government's persistent inaction on the recommendations of previous inquest juries."

The death of a vulnerable member of society demands no less than the careful, considered, and responsible participation of all organizations whose decisions impact on the child welfare system. "This includes the participation of the ministry responsible for child and youth welfare and why we are recommending that MCYS be a party with standing at all future inquests that touch on the death of a child in CAS care," says Simone.

Over nearly two decades, successive coroner's inquests into child and youth deaths have made over a thousand recommendations aimed at preventing child deaths. This includes jury recommendations for additional ministry funding for child welfare agency-delivered prevention and support programs and a comprehensive workload review to assess worker caseloads to ensure front-line workers have the time necessary to provide services. However, to date, MCYS, the ministry primarily responsible for provincial child protection policy has enacted few past inquest jury recommendations. At the same time, MCYS has decreased funding for services and initiated policies, which are seriously undermining CASs' and protection workers' ability to keep at-risk children and youth safe.

For instance, a key recommendation from the 2010 Niagara coroner's inquest into the death of infant Matthew Reid, who was killed by a 14 year-old teen, was that MCYS expand services like the regional adolescent centre in Niagara - where youth had access to a safe, temporary placement with appropriate levels of support. But following funding cuts in 2012 and 2013, the Niagara CAS was forced to close the regional adolescent centre.

Hard-hit by 2013 provincial funding cuts, CASs across the province are shedding services and front-line staff. This includes cuts at the province's largest agencies in Toronto where vital prevention and crisis intervention services were eliminated from a family support program and critical protection staff were cut. Last year, Hamilton CAS was forced to cut prevention supports and a medical dental clinic for at-risk youth, in addition to eliminating 20 per cent of their staff positions.

Ministry under-resourcing has also stalled the implementation of a long-overdue information and data sharing system on children in the care CASs, called the Child Protection Information Network (CPIN). The data system would enable CASs to track and expedite the sharing of information, including background checks on families and potential caregivers. However the ministry recently contacted CASs to say the CPIN implementation and CAS staff training had been deferred, yet again.

Closing submissions from parties with standing at the inquest begin today and conclude on Thursday, February 6.

Contact Information

  • CUPE Communications
    Stella Yeadon