Tuesday 21 June 1994

Draft report: Children at risk


*Chair / Président: Beer, Charles (York-Mackenzie L)

Vice-Chair / Vice-Président: Eddy, Ron (Brant-Haldimand L)

*Carter, Jenny (Peterborough ND)

Cunningham, Dianne (London North/-Nord PC)

*Hope, Randy R. (Chatham-Kent ND)

*Martin, Tony (Sault Ste Marie ND)

McGuinty, Dalton (Ottawa South/-Sud L)

O'Connor, Larry (Durham-York ND)

*O'Neill, Yvonne (Ottawa-Rideau L)

Owens, Stephen (Scarborough Centre ND)

*Rizzo, Tony (Oakwood ND)

*Wilson, Jim (Simcoe West/-Ouest PC)

*In attendance / présents

Substitutions present / Membres remplaçants présents:

Bisson, Gilles (Cochrane South/-Sud ND) for Mr Owens

White, Drummond (Durham Centre ND) for Mr O'Connor

Also taking part / Autres participants et participantes:

Jackson, Cameron (Burlington South/-Sud PC)

Clerk / Greffier: Arnott, Doug

Staff / Personnel: Gardner, Dr Bob, assistant director, Legislative Research Service

The committee met at 1602 in room 151.


The Chair (Mr Charles Beer): Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. For today's session, we're going to be finalizing the report of the committee on the standing order 125 on children "at risk."

What I would propose that we do, and we all have a copy of the report in front of us, is again to note, because we do have people watching, what this standing order was about and then read the conclusions and recommendations, after which I would ask the two critics and a member of the government to make any comments they would like to make. Then we will vote on the report.

Just so everyone recalls, the standing committee on social development held hearings in May and June under standing order 125 on an issue designated by Mrs O'Neill (Ottawa-Rideau). What we were looking at was the following:

"To investigate the protection of children, specifically those `at risk,'" with a focus on "the services available to them and their families, and recommendations to improve the continuum of services, from preventive programs to agencies of last resort. By `children at risk,' the committee means: children in need of protection under the Child and Family Services Act; children affected by inadequate living conditions and child poverty; and children suffering physical and sexual abuse."

As members can see, the document itself numbers a number of pages. I think there's an excellent summary of all the testimony that came before us. I will just read the last three or four pages, which contain the specific conclusions and recommendations.

"Conclusions and Recommendations

"We heard from witness after witness that both the conditions that place children at risk and the types of programs and services that can protect children and prevent "at risk" situations are well known. Service providers, advocates, experts and youth stressed that there has been enough study and consultation; that now is the time to act. We also heard of many innovative services and programs from across the province that indicate promising directions for the required action.

"There are two directions that we want to highlight: the need to prioritize programs and services that can prevent child abuse, neglect and poverty and the need to more effectively coordinate and integrate services at the local level. And, of course, these programs need stable and predictable funding to be able to plan their services."

"Toward a Preventive Approach

"The evidence we heard was overwhelmingly clear:

-- "The conditions that place children at risk, such as poverty, the pressures on single and isolated parents, lack of education about parenting, lack of community support services, limited access to child care or respite care etc are well known.

-- "Situations in which children are particularly vulnerable can be identified.

-- "A wide range of innovative programs have been established to address these conditions.

-- "Their benefits have been clearly demonstrated, both in terms of effectively improving children's immediate conditions and prospects and of preventing more extensive and expensive later intervention.

-- "These programs are inadequately funded and there is little clear policy direction from federal, provincial, municipal or regional governments to support such preventive approaches.

-- "As a result, the development of preventive programs has been inconsistent and unstable, and such programs are not equitably available across the province.

"The committee was heartened and impressed by the efforts in many Ontario communities to establish effective community-based preventive projects. Many of the innovative features of these projects showed incredibly promising directions towards which the service sector could be moving. Some, such as Better Beginnings, Better Futures, show the possibilities of strengthening neighbourhoods in the process of caring for children. Others, such as various projects sponsored by children's aid societies and children's hospitals, show the potential of partnerships between education, health, child welfare and other sectors in particular communities. And, of course, such preventive programs are far better for children's quality of life and future opportunities.

"In addition to their long-term benefits, we heard that preventive programs can save money here and now. We would emphasize the evidence presented by two children's aid societies of the considerable savings they were able to realize through programs that prevented children from having to be taken into care.

"We all talk of the `bottom line' these days; the payoff from investment in well-planned and coordinated preventive programs is immediate and substantial. Governments, agencies and service providers must take a far-sighted approach here. Not moving decisively to facilitate and fund preventive programs and services can only be seen as enormously wasteful and short-sighted.

"The committee therefore recommends that:

"1. Programs geared to the prevention of child abuse, neglect and poverty must be a high priority for government funding.

"The goal of public policy should be to ensure that preventive programs are an integral component of the network of children's mental health services, family support, child protection and welfare, parental education and counselling, prenatal care and other vital children's services in every community. We were pleased to hear from representatives of the Ministry of Community and Social Services that their policy framework will be prioritizing prevention and early intervention.

"But we also recognize that critical barriers stand in the way of communities being able to provide the kinds of preventive services that children and their families need. One of the most important is the policy, funding and legislative frameworks that govern children's services. Which agencies have the mandate for preventive programs? Are some agencies restricted from providing preventive programs even where they may be the most appropriate group in the particular community to do so?

"One example from our hearings concerns children's aid societies. Are CASs to be seen as focusing only on narrowly defined child protection, or should their role also include comprehensive preventive services? We agree with the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies that `the mandate that restricts children's aid societies solely to intervening with the highest-risk families at the latest possible moment is the most expensive and least effective service delivery model for child welfare.' Even if agencies' mandates allow it, many do not receive explicit funding to provide preventive services and have to scramble to cover prevention out of their other programs' budgets or find alternative sources for additional resources. We also heard considerable concern that preventive programs are especially vulnerable when funding is tight or being cut back.

"The province must act decisively to remove barriers within its own policy and legislation. We recommend that:

"2. The Ministry of Community and Social Services, in conjunction with other relevant ministries, identify and remove legislative and policy barriers that curtail children's services agencies' ability to provide preventive programs and services where appropriate.


"3. The Ministry of Community and Social Services, in conjunction with other relevant ministries, ensure that the mandates of children's services agencies clearly allow them to provide preventive programs when they and local communities consider it appropriate.

"A second critical barrier to the development of comprehensive preventive programs is the lack of coordination among children's services agencies.

"Toward an Integrated and Coordinated Approach

"Lack of coordination is not merely a barrier to the development of preventive programs, but limits the effectiveness of the whole spectrum of children's services. While our 12 hours of hearings were only able to scratch the surface of the complex basis of children at risk, we did see several very troubling directions. With expenditure constraint and program reductions, the fragmentation of the service delivery system is getting worse and the gaps are getting broader. The `cracks' for children at risk to fall into are getting wider and deeper.

"Again, witnesses presented very clear evidence of the problems of the existing system of children's services:

"The children's services system is a patchwork in which agencies and programs have evolved in a haphazard and unplanned fashion;

"There are no institutions with the mandate or resources to coordinate local services and ensure that the full spectrum of vital services is available in every community;

"One result is that there is both considerable duplication in services provided by different agencies and significant gaps where no one is meeting a pressing need;

"A second result is that access to services varies considerably from community to community;

"Funding can be incredibly complex, with particular programs and agencies funded by ever-changing combinations of ministries and levels of governments;

"No agency or institution has responsibility for case management or the coordination of services for particular children and their families;

"Intake, evaluation and management vary a great deal between agencies -- as a result, the nature of the care a child receives can vary tremendously depending upon where they entered the system; and

"It can be daunting to work through the maze of service providers, each with their own bureaucratic structures and rules, to find appropriate services for children and their families. This task can seem particularly overwhelming to parents who cannot get help in negotiating the system.

"The committee feels that the current fragmentation of services is an impediment to helping Ontario's children at risk. That a child in difficulty must deal with many different agencies under the auspices of several ministries is unnecessarily time-consuming, confusing and costly.

"We are also greatly concerned that in the current climate of restraint various institutions and ministries appear to be cutting back programs in an unplanned way. For example, this seems to be happening to speech-language pathology for very young children. The cost will be high; these children will begin school at a tremendous disadvantage and are bound to need significant, and expensive, remedial special education. Is there an unspoken assumption that other agencies will pick up the slack? Who is identifying the gaps that will inevitably appear in the spectrum of services available in particular communities? In many cases, no one. Who can move to fill those gaps? Again, existing agencies tend to be stretched to their limits, and who has the overarching mandate to plug service gaps?

"Unplanned cutbacks show the problem of fragmentation at its worst. But our hearings also showed how these problems can be avoided -- of how, even in times of fiscal restraint, services can be provided in an integrated and coordinated way. Service coordination and integration is the second critical theme we want to emphasize in our report.

"We recognize the many barriers to such local integration of services. We know there are communities where such efforts have never been attempted because of lack of leadership or commitment or where efforts foundered in the face of interagency `turf wars' and bureaucratic inertia. But the fact that barriers to effective planning and service delivery exist does not make the challenge of developing integrated services any less pressing. Nor do we see these institutional barriers as insurmountable.

"Barriers that can be changed, must be. We heard many examples of groups and programs working together in well coordinated and planned ways and of programs and communities that were working towards a more integrated model of service delivery. We applaud these local initiatives. We want to recommend a series of directions that provincial policy could take that would help to facilitate local coordination and integration of services.

"4. Clear mechanisms for coordination and collaboration between relevant local agencies must be a prerequisite for any program to be funded by the province.

"5. There must be special incentive funding for innovative pilot projects on local collaboration and integration.

"Again, we were pleased that the Ministry of Community and Social Services appears to be prioritizing integration and coordination of services in the policy framework it is developing. However, many of our witnesses expressed concern that deliberations on these issues had been going on for so long. For example, the 1990 report of the provincial-municipal social services review addressed many of these questions of coordination and responsibility. We urge the minister to make an immediate announcement accepting our two recommendations above and indicating how they will be reflected in funding mechanisms and priorities.

"We are concerned that the presentation from the Ministry of Community and Social Services did not address the problem we highlighted earlier of unplanned program cuts and their local impact. And, perhaps even more fundamentally, while we recognize that MCSS is aware of the need for interministerial coordination, it does not have the mandate to require collaboration with the other relevant ministries. Only the government has the power to bring all the relevant ministries to the table and tell them to get on with the task of coordinating their services for children. We would hope to see a clear direction from the Premier that this interministerial coordination is a top priority. We recommend that:

"6. Ministries involved in providing, funding or mandating services for children and youth should urgently explore means of collaboration and coordination between ministries. The goal must be to both reduce needless duplication and administrative complexity and to ensure that the full array of services is equitably accessible to children and their families who need them.

"Local Initiatives

"We have recommended that policy and funding facilitate local integration of service delivery. But we agree with Yours, Mine and Ours that provincial bodies, and indeed legislative committees, cannot be prescriptive on how this local integration should take place. Local providers and community members are best placed to decide on the particular configuration of service provision that meets their needs.

"We agree with witnesses who argued that pilot projects that seek to implement visions of coordinated services and that build on local community strengths should be supported. Our recommendation above for funding pilot projects would greatly facilitate such local initiatives.

"We also heard the various youth groups that appeared before us, supported by the Premier's Council, argue that youth must be involved in policy and program development when it affects them. Other witnesses stressed the importance of community and consumer input to the success of their programs. We recommend that:

"7. Funding for the new directions of preventive and integrated programs that we have been emphasizing should also be contingent on community and consumer input to program planning and operation.

"We note that the Ministry of Community and Social Services is considering requiring that agencies they fund have boards and staff representative of their communities and mechanisms for consumer and parent input.

"Children's Services as an Investment in Our Future

"Witnesses made a strong argument that public spending on children's services is an investment in a productive and prosperous society. And they showed all too graphically that insufficient investment in addressing the conditions that place children at risk has enormous costs in the future. We endorse the argument made by service providers and the Premier's Council that, even in the tightest economic times, children's services should be a top priority for public funding. Fiscal restraint need not be a time for retrenchment; it simply means that limited resources have to be used in the most effective and imaginative way possible.

"The government must recognize that expenditures on children's services are a sound and essential investment in our collective future and must ensure that the needed programs have an adequate and secure financial base. We recommend that:

"8. The province ensure that vital children's services are adequately and stably funded.

"Summary of Recommendations

To summarize, the committee has recommended that:

"1. Programs geared to the prevention of child abuse, neglect and poverty must be a high priority for government funding.


"2. The Ministry of Community and Social Services, in conjunction with other relevant ministries, identify and remove legislative and policy barriers that curtail children's services agencies' ability to provide preventive programs and services where appropriate.

"3. The Ministry of Community and Social Services, in conjunction with other relevant ministries, ensure that the mandates of children's services agencies clearly allow them to provide preventive programs when they and local communities consider it appropriate.

"4. Clear mechanisms for coordination and collaboration between relevant local agencies must be a prerequisite for any program to be funded by the province.

"5. There must be special incentive funding for innovative pilot projects on local collaboration and integration.

"6. Ministries involved in providing, funding or mandating services for children and youth should urgently explore means of collaboration and coordination between ministries. The goal must be to both reduce needless duplication and administrative complexity and to ensure that the full array of services is equitably accessible to children and their families who need them.

"7. Funding for the new directions of preventive and integrated programs that we have been emphasizing should also be contingent on community and consumer input to program planning and operation.

"8. The province ensure that vital children's services are adequately and stably funded.

"Our last recommendation is that:

"9. Under standing order 37(d), the standing committee on social development is calling on the Minister of Community and Social Services to respond to this report in a comprehensive fashion within 120 days."

That is the section on the conclusions and recommendations. I would now like to call on members for comment before I move adoption of the report and begin with the member who brought this before us, Ms O'Neill.

Mrs Yvonne O'Neill (Ottawa-Rideau): I'd like to begin by saying how impressed I have been with the way in which, over such a short period of time, both the children and youth and the people who work with children and youth in this province were able to present this committee and indeed the government with such useful information. They brought their experience and their professional efforts as well as their research to our subject.

Like you, I would like to particularly mention the Yours, Mine and Ours report, because I thought we were very fortunate to have the authors of that report available to present their fresh-off-the-press document to us. Then so much of what we heard in subsequent testimony reinforced that initial presentation and was complementary to that report. We hope this government will take this important document very seriously.

The committee heard, and I among them, over and over again the words "prevention" and "integration." Many of the statistics we heard regarding the number of children considered at risk were much less than comforting. It became clear to us, as we heard the witnesses bringing their professional and experiential knowledge to us, that there are certain economic conditions and social conditions that directly relate to children at risk. Poverty, inadequate housing, a family history of abuse, addiction to both alcohol and drugs within the home and social isolation are some of those. But that which was most worrisome to some of us on the committee, and indeed me, was the fact that there continues to be growth both in the category of children in care and children needing and seeking services; indeed, thus, children at risk.

There's no question in anyone's mind at the end of these hearings that healthy children and youth are a benefit to all of us and that children and youth must be a priority on the public policy agenda. Our committee heard, and we agree with, the following statements: that integration and coordination must be seriously addressed; that common intake and evaluation procedures must be considered; that parents must be supported in their efforts right across this province; one that we all knew before the hearings but I want to emphasize, that the prenatal period is crucial to both mother and child; and that high-quality child care is a fundamental need for many.

Opportunities must be provided for the young people in decision-making that affects their lives. They brought that to us, we've heard it in other forums, and I want to emphasize that. Youth representation on all public agencies serving this age group would be an important start.

Many successful programs, those who work in them and those who are served by them, made presentations to our committee: Better Beginnings, Better Futures in the cities of Ottawa, Guelph and Kingston; Renfrew County Board of Education and children's aid societies working jointly on child safety and protection; the Brant family resource centre; the Babies Best Start program in Scarborough. This program involves early intervention and parent education to promote optimal development of new and isolated parents and their infants. It's a six-week program delivered in 30 different languages by home visitors, and it's showing already significant reductions in both child abuse and neglect. We also heard of very successful collaborative efforts between hospitals, children's aid societies and other community groups.

Through these exemplary programs individuals gain a sense of self-esteem and develop many practical skills and learn indeed to use the resources in their very own communities. These programs that I've highlighted and others that were mentioned to us are all community-driven and they serve needs that are well known to both those who sponsor and provide the services and to those who receive those services.

The long-term benefits of successful programs like these are that participants are better prepared to do their part to build healthy families and healthy communities, and many of them proved to us that they could do it, even within the limitations of being on social assistance.

The participants acquire practical applications of what they've learned, whether that be new social skills, early recognition of childhood illnesses or preparation of nutritious Canadian meals.

Now to get a little more technical, we heard from many of the presenters that interministerial collaboration is absolutely essential and indeed would be cost-effective. We heard that we must develop an integrated approach to the delivery of specialized services.

Other presenters indicated that alternative dispute mechanisms and access to alternative court measures, such as mediation, are indeed underutilized and should be considered as valuable and effective strategies.

The children's aid societies brought to our attention difficulties within the Child and Family Services Act which indeed need further examination.

I would also like to mention native children, as these children are faced with very distinct barriers, and it's tragic for us to have to recognize that a majority of our first nations children are at risk. The challenges they face are the assimilation policies by both federal and provincial governments right across this country. These children, once in difficulty, are forced to deal with a legal system which does not conform to their traditions or culture.

Children and youth must be a priority on the public policy agenda, and this prioritization must be reinforced by funding commitments to prevention strategies, incentive funding for projects that are based on local collaboration and integration based on interagency service responsibility agreements.

I believe this has been a very valuable set of hearings and I do hope this government and successive governments will use our report as a fundamental resource in all future policymaking in many ministries: Health, Community and Social Services, Education and Training, Culture, Housing and Transportation, to highlight the key players.


Children at risk are a valuable, indeed precious resource in jeopardy. Together we must work to bring every child in this province to his or her fullest potential. The social, physical, mental, emotional and intellectual health of our young people just can't be taken for granted. It's our collective responsibility.

Mr Cameron Jackson (Burlington South): Very much has been said up to this point, through the Chair and through Ms O'Neill, with respect to concerns that have been raised during the process of these hearings. I think they've been extremely helpful by their focused nature, the uniqueness of some of the respondents. In my nine and a half years at Queen's Park, almost exclusively in social policy, there were some very significant presentations that I thought brought some interesting new information before our legislative committee, and to that we can express our appreciation and the pages of the report can express that as eloquently.

There's no question that as we sit in a period of restraint in terms of the ability of any government in this country to deal with a lot of its fiscal challenges -- we've been, in this province, operating with an expenditure control plan, with restrictions on the social contract in terms of the ability to expand services on the basis of need -- nowhere has that been more critically underscored that complications arise in a society when those kinds of decisions hamstring vital social services.

I think what the report has to underscore, first of all, is a flexibility model which allows any government the authority in which to respond in a positive way, in a proactive way and, as the report underscores at length, with a prevention focus as well to ensure that children at risk are less at risk in this jurisdiction.

Since the committee began, we have seen some national and international statistics emerge that were just announced, one just in the last 48 hours, which showed that the level of poverty affecting children in this country is far too great and far too high when we're compared with other industrialized nations around the world, and yet we have some of the highest social assistance rates in all of North America. So when one considers that in the midst of so much wealth we're sitting with these kinds of circumstances, clearly the role of government to date has not served the children of this province as well as they could be served.

The report contains some substantive recommendations, but the one that deals with flexibility models is extremely important, because I think the rigidity occurs at all levels. It occurs with families, it occurs with agencies, it occurs with ministries within governments and it occurs between levels of government.

The second area that this report speaks to, which I'm very pleased to see, is the disentanglement model. Quite frankly, the public is fed up with basically public turf wars or turf wars that occur openly at meetings between various agencies. The Chair has alluded to the issue of speech-language pathology, which is an area that I raised and is of great concern to my community, where those services are being buffeted around by virtue of three different ministries, some wishing to lay claim to it as long as the other ministry will pay for it and so on and so on. The bottom line is that behind these controversies lie children in need, and the list of those children and their needs is growing in this province.

I don't think it serves much, at this point, to reiterate a lot of the problem areas, but I am pleased that we have devoted a certain amount of time to native children, because the levels of solvent abuse and other forms of abuse among native children some are referring to as epidemic proportions. But we know, throughout North America, that in the jurisdiction of Ontario we have the highest suicide rates and other statistics which are now starting to come forward.

In giving that compelling evidence, it's clear that we really must respond to some of their cultural concerns. The fact that we are teaching third-language instruction in many of our schools when some native languages are at risk of disappearing off the face of the earth, it strikes me that we've got our priorities somewhat skewed and that these children have a right to have their language and their culture preserved if that's in fact the process by which true healing occurs within their community. That requires a commitment of dollars; there's no question about that.

But I pose the question that perhaps teaching a third language in our public schools might be an appropriate tradeoff so that an Ojibway child can receive proper healing in northern Ontario, in those communities, through agencies which are culturally sensitive and where there are language linkages and so on and so forth. There's compelling evidence that we have a large cohort of children who are more than just at risk. As I say, their suicide rates are incredible, to say the least.

I wish to say that this is yet one other excellent report. I think all three political parties can be extremely proud of being the government and producing excellent reports. I think all three political parties have governed and produced excellent guidelines and objectives for reform. But clearly, as I go back to my original point, in these tough economic times the process of setting priorities is a process whereby our children have got to be protected as our first priority, and our second most important priority is the elderly, because they are the two most vulnerable in our society.

But children especially, as was cogently presented before this committee, really do not have any laws to protect them. They are, in legal terms, treated like chattel. That's "chattel" I said, which is a legal expression that they are deemed to be the property and responsibility of some person who is deemed to be an adult in our society. That makes them incredibly at risk, just in and of itself. I'm pleased again that the report had the courage to deal in part with part of that question.

So to all those who've presented to this point, I join my colleagues in thanking them for the presentation. I can only indicate that, without getting into partisan terms, I think my party has made some efforts at speaking to where we would try and find some additional moneys. But that's not what this report is about. I simply want to indicate that if all three of our political parties begin talking and dedicating revenue towards children at risk, we will be able to find the solutions that we so desperately need to ensure that all our children have equal access to the best life chances that our society has to offer them.

On that note, I want to again express my pleasure that this will be a unanimous report and that there should be, I would hope and trust, no need for any minority reports on such an important and sensitive issue as the future of the children of this province.

Mr Randy R. Hope (Chatham-Kent): I think one of the important steps Mr Jackson has just indicated is that it is a report that's being put forward by all three political parties which are represented on this committee. On that note, I must say to Ms O'Neill, Mr Jackson, Ms Cunningham, and my own colleagues on this side, Mr Martin, Ms Carter and, I know, Mr Owens, who participated, and Mr White, it was a snapshot opportunity, because it was in only 12 hours that we were able to do this. It is only a snapshot approach to it.

I thank all members of the committee for the view with which we were trying to approach this, to deal with a consensus, a realistic approach, something that could be achieved for the betterment of our children and our community. In those remarks, I know, as also indicated by Ms O'Neill, the Premier's Council report Yours, Mine and Ours was a model of a professional -- and when I say "professional," I use "professional" on all levels, from business to labour to consumers -- approach that was brought forward, because what it did was tell us how important our children really are.


We had our business community tell us how important they are; we had our professionals tell us how important they are; we had parents tell us how important children are, and how important it is for us as a community to come to grips with different agencies, and perform a function of working together. We never thought we would ever have to do this in good economic times, that we could be on our own and be a separate identity, but under the circumstances that were indicated, under constraints, we have to work closer together. Being leaner doesn't necessarily have to mean being meaner. We can be leaner. We can be leaner through the administration; we can be leaner in the way we do our job; we can be leaner in accessing services for the parents who are looking for the service, because it is such a large service network out there.

I know I will have my opportunity in much deeper detail to respond to this report, because we'll have the 120 days to try to write answers to all this. But I think just knowing the report and its intent, through the conversations that have taken place, there has been strong sincerity of trying to resolve our problems in our communities as leaders at the provincial level. It's now going to take, I firmly believe, even though the report is a very positive report, leadership from our communities, leadership from everybody, every walk of life that is possible in our communities to make this report become a reality. I believe the turf wars that we heard and know about have to stop, and we have to look towards a more positive way of resolving and making sure that the service and the prevention issues are brought forward in our community.

I'm not going to go on at length, but I thank all those who participated in this process, who came before this committee from areas around, because whatever might be good for the Kent county jurisdiction may not necessarily be good for the Ottawa jurisdiction in its resolution to children's services. That's why I believe with the generic senses of direction of which we have to go as a provincial body and as provincial leaders and as a ministry, community leadership will have to set their goals and objectives around the same framework. That may vary differently from community to community.

I would just like to thank again all those who participated in coming across this province to present themselves to this committee. I do thank my colleagues of all representative parties who were here and to you, Mr Chair. Also, I must indicate to the people we sometimes forget, the legislative research and others who have taken the time to help us write this report and to our clerk who has made sure that the appropriate people were here on time and in place, I'd just like to say thank you and I look forward to responding to this report in great detail.

I also look forward to seeing the new challenges, the new, innovative ways that communities will set up to make children our priority of our future and hopefully to come back within a year or more from now in praise of those glorious changes we as a committee have put forward, making sure reality was a part of our future.

The Chair: I'm sure I speak for the committee when I wish you well as you respond over the next while.

To committee members, I regret that as always with the section 125 hearings, we're under a time constraint. I'm going to recognize Mr Martin, who will have a few minutes to make comments, but I'm afraid then I'm going to have to move the motion, as our 12 hours, not unlike Cinderella, are quickly finishing.

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I just wanted to put a couple of comments on the record, having sat in on this very valuable undertaking and heard some really interesting things presented and certainly some challenging stories told, to say first of all that I appreciate and understand the excitement that some of the folks who came in front of us had around some of the opportunities they've had through some very richly funded programs that they were able to model, pilot, in their communities and certainly they have produced some exciting results in some instances.

But I think it would be remiss of us if we didn't give some credit to the many, many folks out there today who are working in communities with the resources that are presently available and with resources of their own making and their own ingenuity to try to help children and communities grapple with some of the challenges that face children at risk, to encourage them to keep on and to let them know that we understand that resources are often not there to have them go the extra distance or give them the extra help they need to deliver in the way they would like.

However, I'd also say to them that certainly I understand here that taking care of children at risk is not something they can do on their own. They need the help of the whole community around it. As has been said in some native circles, it takes the whole community to raise a child. I think that needs to be said over and over again.

The ministry has since sometime in 1992 set out on a process of pulling together a policy framework or putting in place a policy framework around the delivery of services under family and child services. I know in my own community they have been pulling people together for the last 18 months to talk about how we might better coordinate and bring cooperation to this question. It's not always that easy a task; however, they are committed to it and keep working at it.

Many of the people who came to that table, who have spoken to me, tell me there is enough money in the system as it now exists. It's just that enough of that money is not being spent in the trenches delivering service directly to the children and to the families that need it. It's being spent in other ways, sometimes propping up administrative systems that are often too many in communities. I think we need to be focused on that.

I think if we're going to change the way we deliver services, we have to be hopeful and encouraging of people to be open to change, particularly those who have over the last few years become entrenched in bureaucracies that after a while tend to sometimes feel like they're simply there to foster themselves. So all of us I think have to be committed to that exercise, because if we're not, we won't get to the bottom of this and change will not happen.

I just wanted to put those few comments on the record, my own personal commitment to being available to be helpful, and I know that our government and all here who have spoken certainly have said the same kind of thing. So I'm hopeful. I think it can be done. I think the resources are there. It's just a matter of how we deliver them.

The Chair: Thank you very much. Could I then put two questions to the committee, following which I'd just like to offer a few thank yous of my own. The two questions are critical. The first one is:

Does the committee agree to adopt the report on Children At Risk as presented? Shall I present the committee's report simultaneously in English and French and move the adoption of its recommendations? All in favour? Agreed.

Secondly, does the committee wish to request that the government table a comprehensive response within 120 days of tabling of the report, pursuant to standing order 37(d)? Agreed.

Just briefly, a number of you have said this, but I would like, as the Chair, to thank the witnesses who came before us. Again, there's a record in terms of the 12 hours of hearings. A number of members have mentioned that 12 hours is a very short period of time, but I think the substance that we received from the witnesses, the Premier's Councils, the youth groups, all of the others, the hospitals, children's aid, children's mental health, those working with young offenders, there's a public record there that I hope those watching or who later read our report will dip into, because I think there's a lot of extremely good observation and material and thoughts there. So on your behalf, a very strong thank you to all the witnesses.

Again, I want to echo Mr Hope in particular to thank both Bob Gardner and Joanne Boucher for the tremendous work they have done in both summarizing the vast amount of material that we heard or was presented to us and then working with us on the report. We thank you both for all of your work. It was much appreciated.

As always, thanks to the clerk, Doug Arnott, for ensuring that somehow we got through all of the hearings and ended up with our report.

I would like to especially thank all of the committee members who've participated. Committee hearings on issues such as this are difficult and I think it was very important that with this one we really did succeed in working together, coming forward with the unanimous report. With that, thank you all.

The standing committee on social development stands adjourned until the call of the Chair.

The committee adjourned at 1651.