Conservatives want Children's Aid Societies to list kids on adoption site

TORONTO - Children's Aid Societies should be forced to list all of the children in their care who need parents on the Adopt Ontario website, Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak said Friday.

Only about 155 of the 7,600 Crown wards in Ontario are actually listed on the website that the government set up to help them find a permanent home, said Hudak.

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"I know Children's Aid Societies have had a lot of independence in the past, but we're going to mandate them to participate," he said.

"Make sure that all Children's Aid Societies participate in the Adopt Ontario website, so that if parents are looking to adopt they'll know kids who are looking for a loving, permanent home in every Children's Aid Society across our province," Hudak said.

The idea has merit, but the solution for every child is not adoption, said Mary Ballantyne, executive director of the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies.

"Certainly more children being registered on the Adopt Ontario site is a good idea," Ballantyne said in an interview.

"It's not necessarily for all children, but using it more frequently would be a good thing."

Even though only 837 kids were adopted in Ontario last year, many more found loving homes, added Ballantyne.

"Over 3,000 children actually found legal homes last year, whether that was through kinship care or customary care or legal custody, so 837 who were adopted doesn't mean that only 837 kids actually found permanent homes," she said.

The Liberal government reacted to Hudak's proposal by criticizing former Conservative premier Mike Harris for slashing welfare payments in the 1990s.

"When they were in government they slashed social assistance by 22 per cent and froze the Ontario Disability Support Program," Children and Youth Services Minister Laurel Broten said in a release.

"We have made improvements to Ontario's child protection system so that fewer kids are coming into care and more kids are being placed in permanent homes."

The Tories said they also want to change the funding formula so Children's Aid Societies are rewarded for finding kids new homes, not for keeping them.

"How they get paid is by the volume of children that they have in their care, so obviously with that comes perverse consequences," said PC children's services critic Jane McKenna.

"There's no incentive for them to have the child leave them because that's how they get paid."

Ballantyne agreed the funding formula has flaws, but said the government is working on revising and updating it.

The Tories also want to provide funding to adoptive parents, between $8,000 and $15,000 per year depending on special needs, to help get more children into full-time families.

"Some of the kids will have significant special needs, mental health issues, behavioural challenges, physical disabilities," said Hudak.

"Why don't we give a hand to those parents to help in the adoption process and the adaptation to a stable home?"

The current system is fragmented and ineffective, leaving a growing number of kids on waiting lists, said McKenna.

"There's no one place for people to be able to look to find all these wonderful children that need to be adopted," she said.

"The kids that I went to see are in survival mode every second of the day. Can you imagine how that life is for them?"

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