Crucial Ontario child welfare computer system years from full
The province is struggling to link Ontario's
Children Aid Societies with a new computer system that's plagued with
Jeffrey Baldwin's grandparents were
granted custody of him despite previous convictions for
A much-needed centralized computer system for Ontario’s Children’s Aid
Societies won’t be operational until 2019-20 — more than three years later
than the Jeffrey Baldwin inquest jury had hoped.
Only three — Halton, Simcoe and Renfrew — of the 46 societies across the
province have gone online with the $122 million centralized computer system,
known as CPIN, which is to track what happens to children in care. The
system is being completed in two phases, with the second now out for tender.
The Star has learned that all of them are not expected to be online until
the 2019-20 fiscal year, despite the urging of the
inquest jury back in February that the system be up and
running by 2016.
“Two years just isn't a realistic time-frame for CPIN. I really can't
emphasize enough the magnitude of this project. It's utterly massive,” a
spokeswoman for Minister of Children and Youth Services Tracy MacCharles
said in an email.
At the coroner’s inquest, which probed the circumstances leading to the
5-year-old being placed with his grandparents by the Catholic Children’s Aid
Society and his subsequent death in 2002, CPIN was heralded as an
between Children’s Aid branches across the province.
Despite previous convictions for child abuse, the grandparents were granted
custody of Jeffrey and his siblings because their arrest and conviction
information wasn’t discovered by the Catholic Children’s Aid Society of
Toronto in its own files until after Jeffrey’s death.
“Transferring millions of records from the old system to CPIN is a large,
complex and delicate process, one that takes time and requires serious
consideration. When it comes to the safety and well-being of our children,
it is critical that we do this well and that we do it right,” MacCharles
said in an email statement.
The average number of children in the care in the province at the end of
each month was 16,434 in 2013-14.
Introduction of the system at the Toronto Children’s Aid Society and the
Catholic Children’s Aid Society — which together handle about 40 per cent of
the cases in the province — has been delayed several times so far. The
latest goal is March 2016.
“I wouldn’t bet on it,” said Aubrey Gonsalves, president of local 2316,
Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), noting that false starts have
caused headaches for Toronto caseworkers.
David Rivard, chief executive officer of the Toronto Children’s Aid Society,
said transferring information from one system to another is a major
“undertaking . . . so that has been part of the delay for us.” At any given
time the Toronto Children’s Aid Society has about 1,700 children in care and
another 30,000 being visited in their homes.
“The deadline for us is the end of March (2016) but we want to go live well
before then,” he said.
Gonsalves and another CUPE official, who asked not to be named, said the
word coming out of Halton, is that the growing pains with the system have
been marked, including having information simply disappearing, requiring it
to be inputted again.
Derek Evans, director of finance for the Halton Children’s Aid Society,
acknowledged there have been teething issues with the system. Halton was the
first to go online about seven months ago.
“Certainly it was typical of any new system. We had some issues with things
like connectivity and with general understanding. It is a totally different
system to our existing system in Halton. It’s been a little up and down . .
. (but) it is mostly working the way it is designed,” he said.
Reports of delays and possible problems with CPIN come hard on the heels of
well-publicized problems with the province’s new
Social Assistance Management System
(SAMS) to administer the Ontario
Works (welfare) and Ontario Disabilities.
Technical problems with the new $240 million computer system caused havoc
late last month when numerous welfare recipients received no money or as
little as $5, while another 17,000 individuals and families were initially
assigned $20 million in overpayments by SAMS.
MacCharles’ ministry confirmed CPIN uses the same base
application — Curam/IBM — as SAMS but was customized for different
MacCharles said in her email, CPIN is about improving the safety and
well-being of children in Ontario by modernizing how societies share
“Currently, the information systems being used by (Children’s Aid Societies)
operate independently, are not interconnected and are not able to
electronically share information. CPIN will replace the old, fragmented
system with a single, province-wide system that will create a single record
or file for a child or family that will travel with them no matter where
they live or move to in Ontario,” she said.