Deadbeat Dads and What is Missing in the Ontario Budget 2011
Well the long-awaited 2011 budget came out Tuesday with a galley full of bobbleheads and not so many surprises really. It was a document that looked a lot like an election year budget. Restrained, yet well worded with so much emphasis on FDK, as they call it. Not surprising Premier Dad is hanging it all on full day kindergarten. By no means am I against full day kindergarten. It makes sense for working parents and it makes sense too for typically developing children. It is not the answer for every child. It would never have worked for my youngest, a child with special needs, for whom a best case scenario is a half day educational assistant, who for the most part understands children who learn differently. But even now in grade one my child is accommodated half the time. The rest of the day is sometimes difficult. There is money in this budget – a significant amount actually _ $80 million heading towards
mental health immediately. That was a necessity and not a frill and it makes a lot of sense
when we know one in five children and adults struggle with complicated mental health issues. It remains to be seen how the money will be used and what that will look like. PCMH (Parents for Children’s Mental Health) spokespeople were cautiously optimistic after the lockup. They stated that their members would be paying close attention to how the money is spent. That is as expected. A ten year mental health strategy is to be rolled out soon. Fingers crossed it is a smart plan that makes better use of existing resources, helps families get support as needed, negotiate systems and access services in a timely manner. Money for mental health is a plus and FDK most will argue is a plus too. But my one great bone of contention in this whole messy election year budget deal is the great missing piece – child welfare. There are comments in the budget about consolidating individual CAS’s across the province and making them be more fiscally responsible. Nobody is arguing that there isn’t room to save money in systems that work to protect children. However little to nothing is in here for our kids in care – the ones for whom Dalton McGuinty and ever Liberal MPP should be working hardest _ crown wards, foster children, adoptive children and kinship children _who were removed from their home of origin. There is even an audacious and unsupported comment within this big red book that claims Ontario is doing better for our children in care. I would like to see Dwight Duncan or Dalton McGuinty tell that to any of the 10,000 children waiting in Ontario right now for a permanent home. Sorry kids. We spent it all on FDK and there isn’t any left to help you find a home, an anchor, a soft place to fall, a permanent rooted spot in the world. I have said it before and I will say it again: where a child has been removed from their home of origin and placed legally in care of society, the crown, the government essentially declared the parent of that child, there must be a higher burden of care. We spent money on a great report about this issue. It was timely and contained smart recommendations to reform child welfare systems, adoption, infertility. It was called Raising Expectations. Somehow this has gone largely ignored. There is a government currently up for re-election. They have done some great things for Ontario. They have made a big investment in education and in fairness have done a decent job turning the economy around. The big cheese has even built a reputation around his status as Premier Dad. But don’t think for a second that this budget and this term has helped support children and youth who are the most vulnerable charges of our province. Children for whom this province bears a direct legal and moral responsibility. When I look at this budget with this lens, through the eyes of my children who were once children in care, there is really only one thing I see. Deadbeat Dads.
Interesting! Yeah, there probably are cost savings to be had at the agency level to make them more cost effective (thinking of the new chairs I saw on Tuesday night), but I’m worried that these costs savings measures will be at the expense of the children that are waiting. Be it less visits from their workers or being left to languish in the system that much longer. Definitely not a great idea and as for Raising Expectations I really hope whoever gets elected decides to revisit it and make some progress on the recommendations.
The global recession was hard on economies around the world. Ontario worked with people when others would have cut them loose. The economy is back on track. Ontario jobs are coming back and growth is returning.
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