FACS merger hinges on provincial funding

Peggy Revell

The merger between the region’s children’s aid agencies is inching closer, but still hinges on provincial funding coming through to cover costs.
April was set as the original date for the amalgamation between Family and Children’s Services of the Rainy River District and Kenora-Patricia Children and Family Services to occur, FACS board president Bob McGreevy noted.
But the exact merger date remains up in the air pending ministry funding to cover the past deficit at FACS, as well as amalgamation costs.
“Part of the understanding was that when FACS merged with the Kenora agency, that the ministry would address the debt and deficit that FACS had because K-P was not willing to assume responsibility for the debt that we had,” McGreevy explained.
“However, there is a delay because of funding,” he said. “That is holding things back, if you will.”
The move to amalgamate came after FACS, alongside dozens of Children’s Aid Societies across the province, faced deficits ranging from hundreds of thousands of dollars to millions in the 2009-10 financial year.
FACS itself faced a deficit of just over $600,000 before receiving one-time mitigation funding of $430,000 from the province back in February, 2010.
In an interview this past fall, McGreevy said the total estimated deficit and amalgamation costs are $900,000.
“As soon as [the ministry] comes up with a plan to address [these costs], we’re moving ahead full speed,” he pledged.
“But until that point, we’re essentially getting ready, but I can’t guarantee that the amalgamation will be completed by the first of April,” McGreevy admitted.
April marks the beginning of a fiscal year for both agencies.
McGreevy stressed FACS has “every confidence” the ministry will fund the deficit as it had verbally committed to addressing the shortfall.
“Part of the problem is that we’re not the only agency that’s amalgamating,” said McGreevy, noting several agencies across the province are just beginning the process.
“The ministry wants to make sure that they develop a process it will apply not only to us, but to other agencies who will be going through this process over the next two-three years, so they’re being very careful to make sure they’re doing it right,” he reasoned.
The amalgamation comes as the province launched the Commission for the Sustainability of Child Welfare’s this past year.
“The Commission . . . has taken the first steps to initiate the amalgamation of some Children’s Aid Societies so that they can become more sustainable,” said Anne Machowski-Smith, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Children and Youth Services.
“Agencies were asked to submit their draft amalgamation plans to the Commission, and the Commission is targeting to provide feedback and recommendations to our ministry regarding all amalgamation plans by the end of this month,” she noted.
The request from FACS and the KPCFS is still under consideration, Machowski-Smith confirmed.
“We have committees, many committees, doing their work and harmonizing policies and procedures between the two existing agencies, and that work continues,” McGreevy said.
“And we’re nearing completion of all of that work, it’s running pretty much on time.
“Really the only thing that’s holding us back would be the announcement by the ministry,” he stressed.
The amalgamation also will mean a combined budget of $17 million—$12 million from the KPCFS, $3 million in funding for the child welfare portion of FACS’ child welfare in Rainy River District, and $2 million for FACS’ integrated services (i.e., children’s mental health).
Once merged, there will be an estimated annual savings of $400,000 due to “economy of scale” kicking in as administrative costs, which are more burdensome on smaller agencies like FACS, would be reduced.
Meanwhile, the larger agency would be better able to financially care for children requiring intensive and expensive care—two issues which contributed to FACS’ original deficit.
An estimated 250 children will be under the care of the new organization.
When the proposed amalgamation was first announced last summer, there also was the promise that the level of service will remain the same as it is now, and that no full-time union layoffs and full-time management layoffs would occur as affected positions would be re-assigned within the organization.
The combined staffing levels are estimated to be at 250 full-time and 100 casual workers­­.
Bill Leonard of the KPCFS will remain as executive director, with FACS’ executive director Vik Nowak becoming director of service for the new organization.