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Investigative series paints a damning picture of privatized child welfare services

Ottawa (28 Nov. 2022) — An investigative series by APTN and Global News over the last 6 months paints a grim picture of conditions in group homes and foster homes operated by private for-profit companies in Ontario. What the articles showed was the damage that is done when companies operating privatized child welfare services scrimp on spending to increase profits. 

Children lack basic necessities, facilities in disrepair

The investigation revealed that inspection reports between 2016 and 2021 found a number of serious problems with for-profit facilities. These problems included children living “without proper clothes” and “lacking access to good nutrition.” There were facilities in disrepair and reports of children going without the dental and medical care they needed.

A description of one company’s facilities included part of a ceiling falling down, electric outlets coming loose and rotten stairs. That company, Connor Homes, operated for 45 years. While the company gave up its foster care licence earlier this year, as of November 2022, Connor Homes still had licences for 3 children’s residences.    

It is not clear what else will emerge as a result of the investigation. Allegations made this month against for-profit companies running child welfare services have included over-medicating children in their care and children facing the risk of human trafficking.

Money that should be caring for vulnerable children and youth going to executive salaries and profits

At the same time vulnerable children and youth are living in inadequate facilities and not having basic needs met, the private companies that are supposed to be caring for them are doing very well. The investigation found companies and their owners had managed to acquire real estate holdings worth as much as $45 million. One company executive was able to expense a boat and 2 recreation trailers to the company in addition to his $200,000 salary.

It's appalling, but for anyone familiar with privatization it’s not surprising. Whenever public services are privatized, money that should be going to provide services is siphoned off for corporate profits. The only questions are how much will be siphoned off and how bad will the quality of service get?

All too similar to problems with long-term care homes

The way that private companies involved in child welfare are putting profits before the needs of the vulnerable children sounds all too similar to what is happening with long-term care facilities. Just like in the long-term care sector, the solution is to end privatization. The needs of the most vulnerable people in society will not be a priority as long as they are cared for by businesses whose primary role is to maximize profits.