ST. CATHARINES, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Sept. 25, 2013) - Continual provincial cuts and underfunding of Children's Aid Societies (CASs) across Ontario will further increase the waitlists and reduce available services for at-risk youth in need of residential services and support, warns the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) representing child protection workers at Family and Children's Services Niagara (FACS). In response to the imminent closure of FACS' Regional Adolescent Centre (RAC), the workers are rallying the Niagara community and their elected provincial leaders to advocate for increased funding for at-risk youth and stop the closure of the RAC.
"Our vulnerable children and youth, who are in need of protection and support, deserve better than another closure of a high-demand, residential home for at-risk youth," said Kim Kane, president of CUPE 2328. "Deep and chronic underfunding by the provincial government has led to higher waitlists for mental health services and, now, with the RAC closing, the community's most vulnerable will suffer, and some may be forced to leave their community - away from their families and their roots - to access much-needed services elsewhere."
The RAC comprises two residential homes where at-risk youth can receive structured treatment and receive the support of professional social workers that help them stabilize so they can transition back to their families or into foster care. In 2010, one of the key recommendations from the inquest into the death of a local Niagara child was for the Ministry of Children and Youth Services to expand services like the RAC - where youth can have access to a safe, temporary placement with appropriate levels of support.
"How can this government spend millions of dollars on an inquest and then ignore a crucial recommendation to help at-risk youth by underfunding CASs causing the closure of the RAC," continued Kane. "We will rally to support our community's at-risk youth by reaching out to residents in our community and contacting our local MPPs to help us stop the closure of the RAC. We've already met with Cindy Forster who is deeply concerned about this and is helping us by raising this issue with the Liberal government, and we plan to meet with the other local MPPs to find out what they will do to help their constituents and protect the at-risk youth in our community."
With the imminent closure of the RAC, the Niagara community will lose 20 'beds' for at-risk youth and the valuable experience and professional services of 46 staff that help run the centre. FACS is facing a 2.5 million dollar deficit for this year alone, and workers are deeply concerned that, much like the closing of the RAC, more contracting out of services and cuts will be underway, which will further reduce access to professional services for the most vulnerable children and at-risk youth in the Niagara community. CUPE 2328 represents 259 child and youth workers who help at-risk children and youth and their families in the greater Niagara Region. In a show of solidarity, the workers will be wearing black every Wednesday to mourn the closure of the RAC and the loss of the experience and services of laid-off agency staff.