The volunteer board of a southern Ontario children’s aid society plans to resign Friday to protest a lack of funding from the provincial government.
“The primary responsibility of Brant [Family and Children’s Services] is to protect children in the community,” board president Paul Whittam said in a press release.
“The Board takes this responsibility very seriously and we believe that government underfunding has put the safety of our community’s vulnerable children at risk. It is no longer possible to fulfill our mandate.”
The agency, which is tasked with investigating allegations of child abuse and placing children in foster homes, laid off off 26 employees in March.
“I won’t do the cuts.”
Another 25 to 30 staff members would have to be let go to meet the province’s budget plan, executive director Andy Koster told HuffPost Canada. Brantford, Ont.’s Brant FACS has accumulated a $3 million deficit in the past couple years, he said, and the province wants to eliminate deficit spending.
“I won’t do the cuts,” Koster said.
He said he could be out of a job if the province sends in its own person to run the agency.
“I’m close to retirement anyway,” he said. “And I want to be able to hold my head up and say I did what I could for the kids in Brantford.”
He said it’s “ironic” that the agency is in a funding crisis because of decisions made by Ontario’s previous Liberal government.
The province has been reducing funding for existing children’s aid societies as new Indigenous-led societies take over cases in some areas of the province. But Koster says his agency has lost a disproportionate amount of funding compared to the number of cases it has transferred.
He has said that because the opioid crisis has hit Brantford particularly hard, Brant FACS actually has more children in its care than it did a year ago.
The board first notified Lisa MacLeod, who was then the minister of children, community and social services, of its intention to resign en masse in a letter dated June 18.
A spokeswoman for the new minister, Todd Smith, said the ministry will appoint a supervisor to manage Brant FACS.
The government has made “numerous attempts” to help Brant FACS with its deficit since 2015, spokeswoman Christine Wood said, and the ministry has 72 recommendations on how to move forward after doing an operational review of the agency this spring.
“We are fully committed to supporting the staff at Brant FACS as they continue to deliver valuable services to the community,” she said.
“New Democrats raised the funding crisis at Brant’s children’s aid society with Doug Ford in March.”
Premier Doug Ford’s government is taking things “from bad to worse,” the NDP’s critic for child and youth services Monique Taylor said in a statement.
“The major problems at the Brant Family and Children’s Services were caused by the provincial government, and they need to be fixed by the provincial government,” she said.
“New Democrats raised the funding crisis at Brant’s children’s aid society with Doug Ford in March. Ford has had months to deal with this crisis, but instead of helping, he made things much worse.”
This story has been updated with comments from the office of the minister of children, community and social services and from NDP MPP Monique Taylor.
CLARIFICATION: A previous version of this story neglected to mention that Brant FACS board members work on a volunteer basis.
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