Who oversees children’s aid societies?

Published On Mon Jun 20 2011

André Marin

Just over five years ago, I was granted the opportunity in these very pages in the Star to argue for something I care strongly about: the need for independent oversight of Ontario’s children’s aid societies. Specifically, the need for that oversight to be conducted by my office, the Office of the Ombudsman of Ontario.

As I prepare to release my sixth report as ombudsman Tuesday — the first of my second five-year term — I’m glad to be back, but for a regrettable reason: children’s aid societies are still immune from scrutiny. They are still shielded from independent investigation of serious complaints about their treatment of children or conduct of their staff — either by my office, or any other.

Every year, my office is forced to turn away hundreds of people complaining about children’s aid societies. We are powerless to investigate these cases, but we keep a record of them and refer people elsewhere for help if we can. Since I first raised the issue in the spring of 2006, and counting the cases I’ll be reporting on today, we have received a total of 2,587 complaints about children’s aid societies. That’s more than 2,500 people we have been unable to help.

It is, of course, up to the government to change this situation — and since the first ombudsman, Arthur Maloney, made this same argument in 1975, Ontario governments have said no. This, despite the fact that every other province in Canada allows its ombudsman to oversee child protection.

Let me be clear — this is the government’s choice to make, and if its choice is to shield children’s aid societies from independent oversight, so be it. However, in the interest of openness and transparency, it should clarify the somewhat murky status quo.

Just last month, Child and Youth Services Minister Laurel Broten stated in the Legislature, as others have before her, that children’s aid societies are already subject to “rigorous oversight.”

“I think it’s important for families right across the province that might be watching to understand that we have a very rigorous variety of oversights that allow you, as an individual, to come forward with a complaint if you do have one with respect to a children’s aid society,” she said.

A comforting statement, but sadly one that does not reflect the reality confronted by the thousands of parents who have complained to my office — precisely because they found their efforts to “come forward” thwarted.

The problem lies in the details of the various oversight mechanisms cited by Broten. She named the family courts, the auditor general, the office of the chief coroner, the pediatric death review committee, and the Child and Family Services Review Board.

Consider those first four. The courts are an adversarial and usually costly option. The auditor general follows the money. And the coroner and pediatric death review committee? To suggest these as oversight options is chilling — after all, they cannot become involved until after a child is dead.

That leaves the Child and Family Services Review Board, which my office does oversee. But the board can only look at procedural issues. It does not investigate the kind of concerns parents bring to us — serious allegations of abuse and neglect of children, and even of threats against parents by CAS staff. Rather, it dismisses complaints or orders the CAS in question to respond to them. And only those actually “seeking and receiving service” from a CAS (not concerned family members or others) can complain.

At a time when the public increasingly expects openness and transparency from government, children’s aid societies — recipients of $1.4 billion in government funds each year — remain cloaked in secrecy and subject only to limited oversight, even from the government itself.

Successive private member’s bills proposing to expand ombudsman oversight in this area, including one just last month, have failed over the past 35 years. But I’m confident that one day this will change. One ray of hope lies with the province’s Commission to Promote Sustainable Child Welfare, established in 2009 and expected to issue its recommendations in the fall of next year.

Any comprehensive review of options to improve Ontario’s child welfare system must surely look at how every other province allows ombudsman oversight. It’s high time Ontario joined them.

André Marin is Ontario’s ombudsman. His annual report will be posted Tuesday at www.ombudsman.on.ca





Feminists have made family law a taboo subject, and politicians refuse to address the needs of children for a Legal Presumption of Family Law. Agencies apply a feminist lens, a feminist concept and blindness to any complaint or a concern that does not agree with their doctrine that is poured into every social worker and family court judge who are often ill suited to their positions and who have a hatred towards men. Canada needs to end its Male Sharia Law with a massive reform of family law legislation, child support and introduce a real authority to deal with the underbelly of the Judiciary who habitually abuse their discretion and leave a trail of endless destroyed children and paternal families.

Every divorced father who has litigated in an Ontario court will attest to the incredible blind bias by CAS workers against men and for women. It's amazing to watch CAS salivate about the prospect of apprehending a cute beautiful baby with their prospective adoptive foster parents in the wings who pay the right donations to the right places and have the right connections.

They will "divide and conquer", to get rid of a father to gain a new born that can go into the machine. When push comes to shove, they will fabricate evidence for mothers to hide their insanity and to create for the father insurmountable vilification that is often life destroying.

That titantical abuse of power is followed up with a dead beat judge who turns a loving devoted sane employed father into a destroyed father whose career and reputation are most probably permanently destroyed.

We need a Legal Presumption of Equal Parenting and Reform of Family Law. CAS courts are secret courts and its that secrecy that enables the underbelly of protection workers to escape responsibility for their actions.

Most of the time however, the public have completely wrong ideas of what powers the CAS have and even more wrong ideas about their commitment to objectivity and attention to detail that results in most people most of the time having unfounded ideas of the CAS acting with appropriate wisdom and common sense.