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County CAS apologizes, wants to re-build community trust

With an eye to moving forward, the Prince Edward County Children’s Aid Society has offered an apology to children who experienced harm at the hands of their foster parents, and to the community that trusted the society to keep them safe.

The society, moving toward a merger with the Highland Shores Children’s Aid, “must re-establish partnerships and re-build trust within the community” said new executive director, Mark Kartusch, at a press conference Friday.

“This is the beginning of our conversation with the community,” he said. “Community consultation and re-establishing partnerships with those agencies whose services go hand-in-hand with the society’s will be extremely important.”

Following criminal charges laid against several former foster parents of the agency, Kartusch said the society has worked with the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, as well as with outside consultants, to correct and enhance key administrative and systems functions designed to keep children safe and families supported.

Some of the steps will include:
– Ensuring all files are up-to-date and are meeting the standards as set out by the Child and Family Services Act as it relates to both Foster Care and Child Protection
– Ongoing monthly review of compliance to standards
– Additional staff training has been completed with an increased
emphasis on supervisory training and new worker training
– Appointment of an Interim Director of Services, Brad Bain, to oversee the processes that have already been put in place to make sure they continue to work effectively and to oversee the work that is still ahead
– Reaching out to community service partners in order to re-establish relationships that will benefit children and families in the community

Three foster parents were convicted over the past year for sex crimes against children. Another three former foster parents were charged last month.

He said the agency failed to provide a co-ordinated response to allegations stemming from at least one of the child abuse cases. “We need to follow up on allegations. In at least one of those cases we didn’t do that well… There were gaps in how the information was being filtered between the departments.”

“The lives of these children have been forever impacted. I recognize the breach of trust felt by these young people who relied on the society to keep them safe and the devastating impact these events have had on their lives,” Kartusch said. “I also recognize the concerns of community members who rely on the society to make a positive difference in the lives of children and families in this County. Most importantly, I want to apologize to the children who experienced harm at the hands of their foster parents, but also to the community who trusted in us to keep them safe and protected.”

He went on to acknowledge that there are many who must shoulder the responsibility. “The society, the board of directors and the ministry all play an important role in keeping children protected. In the case of these young people, that didn’t happen
and for that we are deeply sorry”, he said.

While the legal phase of the merger should be complete by April, the structural details to bring services together is to be complete by December 2013 and the organizational plan will follow. The merger involves 320 employees and an estimated $46 million budget.

Emphasizing the role the board of directors will play in the future of the organization, Darcey French, PECAS Board Chair noted
this board has inherited some difficult challenges.
“However, we all understand our responsibility to acknowledge and accept what has happened and take ownership to do the work that is necessary to steer the organization on a steady course for the future.”

“Darcey and I are personally committed to making this journey forward as transparent as possible,” said Kartusch. “We can’t make progress and be effective without the community being involved. I want to hear your suggestions. I want to hear how you think we can improve and when you think we’ve got it right. I look forward to working together to provide the best possible service to the children and families of this community.”

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  1. chris says:

    From my personal experience with another children’s aid society in ontario I can honestly state that cas agencies are no where close to the standards set out by the ministry. I have proof of purjery in a workers own handrighting, I drug tested my 2 1/2 year old daughter after a police officer informed me and the worker involved that he could smell drugs in the home while serving my ex with court papers. She tested positive for marihuana in a hair drug test, I was in turn blammed for this by the worker, he also claimed that the exposure was marginal and not a big deal. Next came my ex’s eviction and as it turned out the home was a pig pen party house, including mold growing in the furniture and on the children’s beds. All the worker had to say was he didn’t see it that way. He was handed over a hundred pictures of the home my child and her sisters were living in and all The worker did was claim it was staged by the landlord!(I was in tears when I saw these) The next problem reported to him was that my child was being transported by her mother without a proper car seat. All he did was claim he didn’t know what the proper car seats were and sat back and allowed this to happen until I was able to get my child’s weight verified by a doctor after a month. All this happened over the course of 3 months and he did nothing but blame everyone else. Many reports were made regarding my ex’s behaviour by a number of different people and yet nothing happened until it was to late and the society couldn’t ignor what happened that fall. It took 3 months, 4 letters of complaint and multiple meetings with his supervisor and what happened that fall to have him removed from the case. One of the letters from myself stated that no cas representives where to have any contact or provide services to my child until he was removed and held accountable for his actions or lack there of. I have that right since service was voluntary and yet he still provided services. I have been trying to get information corrected in files held by Cas and the statements thier wokers have made and have been told that they are thier files and they don’t have to change them. Yet the child and family services act states otherwise. I have been lied to almost non stop by every one I have spoke to and constantly got different stories depending on who I spoke with(including all of upper management). I have had to inform workers of the contents of the child and family services act on many occations and I believe not many have even read it. This is just very small sample of what went on over a year and half of cas involvement. Disturbing yes but I assure you it is far worse and there is alot more. I have been all the way through thier internal complaint review process, it took two years and got nowhere. A complete waste of time. The sad thing is I have conclusive proof of everything including many tape recordings.
    Lawyers have told me they are like the mafia and it’s best not to complain of cross them. Well I did I comfronted them at every turn and have paid a healthy price.
    Abuse in foster care is nothing new, there is a long disturbing history of this with Cas and is still an ongiong problem and will be until something drastically changes.
    Every thing I have read on line about Cas behaviour is true I can account for most of it with proof.
    The problem is Cas isn’t accountable to anyone, they are a government funded private corperation. They claim they are accountable, but it is only to themselves. Even the government review board set up for complaints against them can only make recomendations. It is very scary that when our children’s safty is concerned we have to trust a corporation that answeres to nobody.
    My experience tells me, the promises made by pecas is nothing but smoke and mirrors. I can’t even comprehend why there wouldn’t be an inquiry, they were children unable to defend themselves and more than likely ignored by workers.
    In the end children suffer at the hands of the people who are supposed to protect them. After all the pain caused all they get is an appoligy and a bunch of b.s.
    What needs to happen is a full inquiry into the whole system and some sccountabilty, otherwise nothing will change. Presently my local Cas is not allowed near my child, they have it in writing. I have to use the courts to try to protect my child as all I have seen from cas is incompentance, lies and abuse of power by under educated workers.
    It is true the public generally doesn’t trust Cas,what reason do we have to trust them when abuse continues to happen in foster care and all we get is an appoligy and B.S.

    Chris

  2. Paul says:

    Mr.Norman very well said Sir, An inquiry is definately the only way to hash out the details of the mess that was PECCAS in regards to the sexual assaults that occured here in the County. Sadly I don’t think that will happen the Ministry of Children and Youth Services did step in and took it as far as they wanted it to go without opening a huge can of worms and having to answer the HARD questions. This mess will slowly go away once the last charges make their way through the court system never to be talked about again except for the Children who will deal with what happened to them while in the care of PECCAS for the rest of their lives. Without lots of pressure from the public and especially the Citizens of Prince Edward County these Children and young adults will deal with the devastation and fallout of what happened to them on their own and that should not happen…

  3. David Norman says:

    @ Ann & Paul, actually, and I speak from experience, the disenfranchisement and abuse of children in the CAS system is remarkably similar in some respects to what is happening to folk from the invasion of Industrial Wind Turbines. Years ago I helped to bring down some negligent abusive agencies (group homes) of the CAS not very far from here. The tragedy is that these children are already incredibly vulnerable and emotionally fragile. These agencies were so fixated on the lucrative per diem rates from which they profit handsomely that they hired (cheaper) under qualified staff, were overcrowded, and quite often did not have the expertise to recognize the needs of the children under their care. What you see here is a typical bureaucratic response, too little too late. Statements like “However, we all understand our responsibility to acknowledge and accept what has happened and take ownership to do the work that is necessary to steer the organization on a steady course for the future” are little more than rhetorical tripe. As I understand it, the Ministry responsible has now backed off since this amalgamation. There is an erroneous assumption here that the new amalgamated CAS is a “better” provider of children’s services in this respect. The County’s CAS agency should be rigorously investigated for past misdeeds and its acts held open to public and legal scrutiny. This is the only way to provide some assurance that CAS folk will be held accountable. I support and would welcome the opportunity to help to do just that. To do less is criminal.

  4. Ann Hunter says:

    Good Luck with that Paul! As I have already stated people don’t care about anything to do with the CAS.

  5. Paul says:

    Bump!Trying to keep other important issues in the qeue besides the Wind Turbine thing..

  6. Paul says:

    I agree Mr.Keely an inquiry is needed to identify exactly where the system failed, it should not be held to lay blame or point fingers at individuals the best thing that could come out of an inquiry would be identifying where the failures occurred and the assurances that they will never happen again….

  7. Frank Keely says:

    Is Mr Kartuch stating that PECAS has not been in compliance with the CFSA and Ministry standards even at the basic level where files are kept up to date? His statement appears to say this and why has the Ministry not held an inquiry why Standards were not met ? It is my understanding in reading the Standards which can be found on the Ministry website that all cases are reviewed by a worker and supervisor at the maximum every 6 weeks. It is also my understanding the Ministry reviews children who are crown wards yearly and if they are doing this would they not see evidence of standards being met. This is a whitewash and a public inquiry should be taking place if PECAS have not had trained staff or supervisors and have not been compliant with the basic standards set out by the Ministry. The voice of the trumatized children have been lost on the premise that things have changed ? Frank

  8. Paul says:

    After recent events in the United States Childrens safety should be the number 1 priority in Prince Edward County and the world for that matter. I applaud the acknowledgement and apology by PECCAS and hope that they are successful in providing safe placements for all Children in their care.

    ALL Children whether in the care of Childrens Aids Societies at Home or at School deserve to be safe and protected from harm..

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