CAS dealing with more domestic violence cases

By Bill Hunt
Local News - Friday, October 01, 2004 @ 10:00

The number of domestic violence cases involving the Hastings Children’s Aid Society has been steadily increasing in recent years, according to a CAS employee.

Melanie Regan, manager of child protection and family services for the Hastings CAS, told members of Hastings County council Thursday the society is seeing more cases of domestic violence and drug abuse locally than it used to. Mental health issues among parents are also becoming more of a problem, she said.

The increase, explained Regan, may be due to greater police awareness rather than an increase in actual assaults, however.

Regan said later she doesn’t know if the actual number of domestic violence cases in Quinte is rising or if police are simply notifying the CAS more often when they become involved in such cases, due to greater awareness on their part of the impact of such violence on children.

“I’m looking at a fairly steady increase over the last four years. It’s not a dramatic increase but it’s fairly steady,” said Regan, noting the same is occurring across the province.

Mental health issues are also increasingly coming to the attention of CAS workers, possibly due to a decline in the number of mental health services locally, said Regan. “Certainly we’re concerned that’s one of the reasons more children end up coming into care,” she said when asked of the impact a decline in such services could have on children.

Regan was making a delegation to council to ask it to declare October Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month. She told councillors the Hastings CAS handled 3,600 referrals last year and took 267 children into its care (for a total of 433 children currently in its care). More than 160 foster families provided more than 77,000 hours of care to foster children last year, and the Hastings CAS provides services to more than 700 families at any given time, she added.

The remarks about domestic violence, drug use and mental illness were made following a question from Deseronto Mayor Clarence Zieman regarding the level of child abuse in Hastings County.

Regan didn’t have statistics but following the meeting said a study completed by the University of Western Ontario for the London Children’s Aid Society revealed the three above factors, plus poverty and inter-generational cases (in which foster children grow up to have children who are also taken into care by the CAS) are the main reasons for increases in the number of children cared for by children’s aid societies.

There had been an increase in the number of cases handled locally during the last four or five years, said Regan, but that has subsided recently.

“We have seen a levelling out in the number of investigations we’ve been involved in,” in the last two years, said Regan, “and we anticipate that continuing this year.”

Accompanying Regan in the delegation was Angus Francis, manager of children in care services, who asked council to declare the week starting Oct. 17 as Canadian Foster Family Week.

Council agreed to both requests.