Child welfare agency, families left ignorant of ‘high-risk’ group homes, some linked to death

Global News has learned that the Ontario government has not disclosed the names of “high-risk” foster care and group homes to the Child Assistance Society (the organization responsible for placing children in shelters).

An expert with decades of experience in Ontario’s child welfare system says this is “very problematic” and a major obstacle to knowing where and with whom to safely leave children.

More than 12,000 children under the age of 17 were legally cared for by Ontario’s Child Assistance Association (CAS) in 2019, according to the latest data.

These agencies are charged with investigating reports of abuse and neglect and can be a last resort for parents whose children are becoming too challenging. We are placed in foster care or group homes.

States also oversee the licensing and inspection of these homes, but Global News has learned that information about “high-risk” homes is not being shared.

One of the businesses flagged as potentially unsafe was the site of a fatal stabbing incident in 2019, and another was targeted at diabetic youth, according to a ministry inspection report. failed to provide adequate care.

“Shouldn’t young people who live in group homes be aware of home anxiety?” said Dawn Flegel, Executive Director of the Sarnia-Lambton Children’s Aid Society.

“Shouldn’t parents, caregivers and legal guardians know what those concerns are?”

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The companies were identified by a team of expert investigators assembled by the province in 2017 in the wake of a series of deaths in group homes in Ontario.

A five-person team, known as the Intensive Site Review Team (ISRT), scrutinizes data from over 430 licensed group homes and foster care agencies to “identify high-risk residences.”

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These identified locations may be subject to unannounced visits and intensive site reviews, according to the Department of Children, Community and Social Services, which oversees the unit.

However, the ministry has not publicly disclosed which companies have been designated as “high risk” and has declined to comment on its decision.

Global News could only obtain the name by filing a Freedom of Information Request.

The document does not explain the criteria for what is considered “high risk”.

Over the past five years, the ISRT has inspected 15 operators of foster care services and group homes. 12 are operated by private for-profit companies. 3 are non-profit. All families receive public funding for each child in their care.

Experts cautioned that the presence of potentially problematic homes is not shared with children’s aid organizations, indigenous agencies, families, or children in care.

This is part of a systemic problem of a “cave” of lack of information about foster care and group home operators, Fregel said. Global News learned that even routine inspection reports by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare were not shared with the Child Dependents Association.

“I think[the names of high-risk homes]should be public information,” she said.

The Department of Children, Community and Social Services said “transparency and accountability are very important” but did not directly respond to questions about why it does not disclose the names of high-risk homes to child support associations and indigenous peoples agencies. I didn’t answer.

Five months ago, the state began posting a list of foster care agencies and group homes on the ministry’s website. This includes the conditions imposed on the company’s license. However, the ministry said it was the responsibility of the Child Dependents Association to request a copy of the inspection report for the business.

“[Dispatch agencies]have an ongoing duty to monitor the safety and well-being of children while they receive care in the setting,” said Jennifer Rushby, a spokesperson for the department, in an email. ‘ said.

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Some of the companies under ISRT scrutiny, including Mary Homes, Connor Homes and Enterphase, were investigated by Global News/APTN earlier this year.

At Conor Homes, there are images of flood-damaged bedroom ceilings, and former employees said they have a limited budget for food and clothing. A former youth of Mary Holmes said staff were poorly trained and often detained children for no reason.

The study found that private operators accounted for 25% of child welfare system beds, but filed 55% of all serious outbreak reports (SORs). .

The analysis conducted by Global News is based on a database of over 10,000 SORs submitted between June 2020 and May 2021. In just one year, there were at least 1,000 reports of serious injuries and more than 2,000 reports of restraints.

Calls for more information-sharing about potentially unsafe housing identified by the ministry began several years ago.

Mary Ballantine served as CEO of the Ontario Child Assistance Association (OACAS) from 2010 to 2019. OACAS represents the state’s 49 CAS and Indigenous Child and Family Welfare Agencies.

She attended a high-level ministries meeting in 2018 and said it was revealed that the state had identified operators of groups/nursing homes. He asked family members and social workers to disclose “immediately.”

“I was really concerned about not sharing that list,” she said.

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According to Ballantine, if child support organizations had more information about troubled families, they could take children away or reduce the risks.

But Ballantine, who retired in early 2019, would not name the potentially dangerous operator.

OACAS’s current chief executive officer, Nicole Bonnie, also said she had not seen any of the ISRT findings and said it was “essential” to receive this information in order to make the best placement assessments for children. I’m here.

“You can’t leave your child in a home where you can be harmed,” she said. “We are in the business of helping children and young people … we need to assess risk at all levels.”

ISRT created in the wake of tragedy

According to Ballantine, several deaths in foster homes and group homes spurred the creation of a special task force.

In April 2017, 13-year-old Amy Owen from Poplar Hill First Nation committed suicide at the Mary Holmes mansion in the Ottawa area. That same month, 16-year-old Courtney Scott died in a fire at her home, another Ottawa-area group run by the Stepping Stones. She was also an aboriginal.

Mary Holmes denies all ‘allegations of negligence’ in Owen’s death. Stepping Her Stones declined to comment for Global’s news coverage.

But Ballantine said the catalyst was a devastating fire in February 2017 at a Connor Holmes-run nursing home near Lindsay, Ontario, that killed 14-year-old resident Kathy Finbow and a young worker. Andrea Reed has died.

Andrea Reed (left) and Cassandra Finbow died in February 2017 in a fire at a foster home run by Connor Holmes.

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Finbow’s mother, Chantal, said the state had not yet done enough to protect children from dangerous businesses following her daughter’s death.

“[Kathy]doesn’t want this to happen to another family,” Finbow said.

Her mother remembers her daughter as a “very energetic and active child” who loved gymnastics and dancing.

However, after the age of 5, she began to show signs of aggression that worsened over time, becoming violent towards her family and in some cases damaging the home.

Exhausted and having no other choice, she turned to the Durham Child Aid Society, which placed Cassie at Connor Holmes. Earlier reports from Global News and APTN said the company was accused of under-reporting serious incidents at home, according to former workers and young people, receiving inadequate test reports and often benefiting from child care. was placed

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Finbow hopes that the names of “high-risk” businesses will be shared with all families that come into contact with the child welfare system. This was not important information to her or her daughter at the time.

“If it had come to my attention that[the house]was high risk, I wouldn’t have let her in,” said Finbow.

Connor Homes did not respond to questions about why the ministry’s rigorous review took place.The company denied responsibility for the fire, saying the home “complied with and exceeded fire, health and licensing regulations.” ” he said.

Conner Homes, formerly one of the leading companies in Ontario’s child welfare industry, abandoned its foster care license last spring but still operates group homes.

When asked why some companies were put under the scrutiny of expert investigators, the health ministry did not provide an explanation.

Group home operator Expanding Horizons Family Services Inc. was once under investigation by ISRT. The company did not respond to questions from Global News.

In 2019, 15-year-old David Roman was stabbed to death by a 14-year-old boy in one of his Barry neighborhood residences.

Some service providers have closed, including Beacon Homes, which operated in Prescott, Ontario, and Camey Group Home, near Ottawa. Several other homes Global News contacted didn’t even know they were listed.

A ministry inspection report on some homes obtained by Global News revealed allegations of nasty living conditions.

In 2018, at Camey Group Home, inspectors said they found a young man with diabetes who had dangerously low blood sugar levels and failed to get a blood sugar test. In another case, they noted that a suicidal youth did not have an adequate care plan.

Inspectors also reported that children living in Camey were searched in violation of their right to privacy and state regulations.

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In 2019, the state moved to suspend Cammy’s license.

Selwyn Pieters, an attorney representing Camey, said the company was not prepared to comment on the results of the inspection, but said it “fully cooperated and fully responded to all allegations made against it.” Stated.

“It is unreasonable and disproportionate that[Cammy Group Homes]was listed on the centralized site review team’s list and deemed a ‘high risk’ place for children to live,” Peters said in an e-mail. said in an email. “(Cammy) was a small business penalized for major housing failures and had the resources to sue and fight issues raised by the Department, CAS, or the police. .”

For Sarnia-Lambton CAS executive director Flegel, states cannot hide behind “a guise of privacy or confidentiality” to hide sensitive information.

“We are here for our children and families,” she said.

If you would like to share your experience working or living in a child welfare system, please contact us.

Read the full research series benefit from children on the Global News website.

– with additional report from Mikail Malik

Child welfare agency, families left ignorant of ‘high-risk’ group homes, some linked to death

Source link Child welfare agency, families left ignorant of ‘high-risk’ group homes, some linked to death

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