The executive director of Brant Family and Children’s Services says because the Ontario Conservative’s “won’t acknowledge the opioid crisis in Brantford,” 11 board members have opted to resign their posts.
Andy Koster told Global News the agency that protects children from abuse and neglect, is in a deficit due to “decisions” that the Doug Ford government made.
“We are a well-run agency. It’s just been really unfortunate that they just will not acknowledge their part in this and they won’t acknowledge the opioid crisis in Brantford,” said Koster.
LISTEN: Executive Director Andy Koster says the volunteer board for Brant Family and Children’s Services is resigning over a lack of government funding.
Koster says the service has seen increases in the number of kids coming into care and it’s largely due to addiction.
“Forty per cent of our kids in care, are addiction related,” Koster said. “The kids that come into care from addicted parents are actually staying in care longer, an average of three hundred and four days. And this obviously is additional costs.”
Koster, who’s spent 45 years as a front-line children’s aid worker in Ontario, revealed that the agency paid out an additional $800,000 in targeted subsidies to support 70 kin families that had to take on drug-afflicted relatives’ children.
However, budget changes from the Doug Ford government mean much of the costs for those subsidies, about three-quarters of it, will now be passed on to children’s aid agencies across the province, according to Koster.
The departure of the volunteer board members, which consist of family doctors, a senior police officer, dispatcher, and local businessmen, adds to the number of recent casualties for the agency after 26 people departed in March due to payroll pressures.
Koster also said the province expects the agency to get down to a zero-based budget which means needs and costs would have to be justified to the province on a regular basis potentially slowing down the process for users.
“The board just couldn’t take it anymore. They were exhausted,” said Koster.
Brant Family and Children’s Services receives around $24 million a year from the province. It’s currently running at a $2.9 million deficit according to its executive director, and he says they are not the only ones.
“There are at least 20 to 30 agencies who are in big deficits and it’s only getting worse,” said Koster. “We’re the canary in the coal mine.”
In a statement, Board President Paul Whittam echoed Koster’s sentiments on the resignations.
“The primary responsibility of Brant FACS is to protect children in the community,” said Whittam.
“The Board takes this responsibility very seriously and we believe that government underfunding has put the safety of our community’s vulnerable children at risk. It is no longer possible to fulfill our mandate.”
WATCH: Drugs, theft, alcohol and inappropriate relationships alleged at Children’s Aid group home
© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.