Jewish Family & Child’s executive director is hoping that a government plan to amalgamate child protection service agencies won’t affect the Jewish agency.
In the annual auditor general’s report released in December, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne called on the Ministry of Children and Youth Services to further centralize the co-ordination of child protection services and address problems with child protection standards, and lack of ministry oversight.
But Brian Prousky, JF&CS’s new executive director, said this isn’t the first time the government has called for reform and amalgamated children’s aid societies (CAS).
In 2012, the Commission on Sustainable Child Welfare also resulted in the amalgamation of CAS organizations.
“In fact the most recent merger of two CASs occurred just last year… I’ve been in child welfare for 25 years. So I’ve seen the system go through times of growth and belt-tightening,” said Prousky, who came to JF&CS after serving about 18 years with the Durham Children’s Aid Society and York Region Children’s Aid Society in various roles.
“In the commission’s final report, it emphasized the importance of building a fully integrated children’s service system and at the time [JF&CS was] viewed as a model organization. This was largely because of the integration of our child welfare services with 30 other programs and services we offer to families and children.”
Prousky said he hopes JF&CS will be exempt from amalgamating with another CAS, such as the Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, because of the “complexity” of the organization.
“First off, it’s important to remember that Jewish Family & Child is not simply a Toronto agency. We also operate in York Region. So the process of amalgamating with another CAS would be far more complicated,” he said.
“The government would also have to take into account that… we are a multi-service agency, which means that we don’t really have a natural partner in the GTA. Our child protection services are fully integrated with our children’s mental health and adult mental health services,” he added.
“Finally, the province can proudly point to our agency, just like it can to Baycrest or Mount Sinai Hospital, as one of the many great parallel institutions Jews have built to serve the broader community.”
Prousky said JF&CS also serves as a resource for other child protection agencies throughout the province in cases involving Jewish families and children.
“Our involvement in the recent Lev Tahor case highlighted this. In that instance, we worked closely with child welfare professionals in Chatham, Ont., to ensure the unique needs of Orthodox children brought into care were met. That is something that would be lost,” Prousky said.
Prousky said JF&CS has been working with UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs to “reach out to influential allies who can deliver a message to the highest levels of government about the important role our organization plays in the lives of children and families in the GTA and across the province.”
He said that although neither his senior staff nor board members have been approached by government representatives about amalgamation yet, “we’re concerned, and we want to make sure our voice is heard.”
He said JF&CS is working with other children’s aid societies to develop recommendations to improve how services are delivered.