While the recent round of staff layoffs at Chatham-Kent Children’s Services is hoped to be temporary to balance the budget, interim executive director Stephen Doig said more permanent changes are coming next spring, affecting 20 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions.
Doig said he hopes to recall the laid off workers at the beginning of the new fiscal year, April 1, 2014, but a review of programs has changes coming next spring to bring the agency in line with the provincial shift towards more family-based services.
In a memo to staff to keep them abreast of future restructuring planning, Doig said the agency will be closing the Victoria Park facility on Murray Street, closing the group home and reorganizing the supervised access program.
“Starting in spring 2014, a carefully planned transition will move children from the group home to alternatives such as foster care. In some cases, the children will be re-united with their families,” Doig said in the memo. “Our group home was one of the few remaining in the province, and based on experience elsewhere, we believe that the children will be better served by these other options.”
There are currently eight children in the 10-bed group home, Doig said.
The supervised access program, which currently works out of the Victoria Park location and allows parents supervised visits with their children, will be re-organized to be more flexible in meeting the needs of families, with a focus on supervising high-risk situations, according to Doig.
The program will be moved to the main Grand Avenue location and the Victoria Park facility will be closed by September, 2014. Ontario Early Years Centre staff will also be moved to the Grand Ave. campus, with programming moving to Early Years school locations.
The restructuring will result in permanent layoffs for all the group home staff – 11.07 FTEs, and a number of supervised access program staff – 9.17 FTEs.
While Doig is the interim executive director until the board finds a permanent replacement for outgoing CEO Mike Stephens in the next couple of months, he has been working to help the agency comply with recent Ministry of Youth and Children Services directives regarding case procedure, expenses, procurement and accountability.
“We have complied with all the directives, have achieved a balanced budget and will have no deficit by March, 2014, with recognition it is at the cost of temporary layoffs,” Doig said. “It is unfortunate it is happening at all.”