OACAS Operational Plan 2016–2017

Message from Chief Executive Officer

I am pleased to present the Operational Plan for the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS) for the coming fiscal year, April 2016 – March 2017. The Plan introduces the goals and performance expectations aimed at furthering the achievements of the OACAS Board of Directors’ Strategic Directions 2012-17. Additionally, our Plan reflects the internal foundational changes expected to enable OACAS to meet the needs of our members and the public while maintaining capable and responsive human resource, financial and information system capacities.Mary Ballantyne

The performance goals for the coming year guide the Association in its work to deliver services and provide leadership on behalf of its 48 member agencies. OACAS continues its commitment to bring together people from many areas and perspectives to discuss important issues and influence change to improve the lives of children, youth, and families served and affected by their local children’s aid societies. Our planning recognizes the necessity of continued improvements in our relationships with Indigenous partners. This will enable the Association and local member agencies to further our journey towards acknowledgment and reconciliation of child welfare services with Indigenous people and communities. Development of culturally responsive services across Ontario aligned with the individual cultures of children, youth and families is essential for achievement this year. OACAS will provide leadership to assist agencies within their local communities to further the development of culturally responsive organizations and services for all children, youth and families.

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Mary Signature

Mary Ballantyne
Chief Executive Officer
Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies


In 1912, 60 Children’s Aid Societies came together to form the Associated Children’s Aid Societies of Ontario. The purpose of this organization was to “devise means and methods of furthering the cause of children throughout Ontario.” The Association’s emphasis was on legislative change, and its first act was to request legislation for the protection of neglected and dependent children.

Some of the important issues discussed by the Association in its early years included

  • Provision of financial support for widows and deserted wives with children
  • Elimination of the requirement for Children’s Aid Society staff to act as truant officers
  • Condemnation of the “liquor traffic”
  • Prohibition of corporal punishment by courts in the punishment of children
  • Reduction of “problem” cigarette smoking for boys

In 1914, the Association challenged the government regarding “changes being made in the Children’s Protection Act without prior consultation with the workers who were best aware of its strengths and weaknesses.” This led to the government agreeing to submit legislative changes to the Association for consideration, prior to government approval. Since incorporation in 1920, OACAS has tackled many challenges on behalf of children, along with the boards and staff of Children’s Aid Societies who serve them. During the 1920s, the Association and member societies pressed for the creation of one government department responsible for all public welfare funding and legislation. A provincial government grant awarded in the mid-1940s enabled OACAS to reorganize and to hire, for the first time in 1946, a full-time paid executive secretary. Full-time staffing allowed OACAS to expand its services, allowing it to become a clearinghouse of information and a communications vehicle among member societies.

OACAS Mission

OACAS is a leader and collaborator promoting the welfare of children, youth, and families through leadership, service excellence, and advocacy. This underlying foundation describes in broad terms the major purpose, vision, and direction of OACAS. OACAS advocates on behalf of its members by speaking with a common voice when informing the public and persuading the government to act on issues concerning the safety, protection, and well-being of Ontario’s children.


With more than 100 years of history in the province, the OACAS operates with central offices in downtown Toronto and remote staff located in regions across Ontario. The Association employs over 65 staff to deliver services to its members including advocacy, child welfare service excellence, child welfare operational excellence and membership and stakeholder relations. Funding for the work of the Association is derived from a combination of membership fees, direct funding contracts with the Province of Ontario, grants, sponsorships, donations, and sales of materials.

Corporate Governance

The member societies of OACAS are the owners of the Association. The OACAS Board of Directors represents this ownership and makes decisions reflecting the interests of the Association’s membership in carrying out its Mission statement. The OACAS Board of Directors has two primary components: sector leadership and fiduciary responsibility. In its governance role the Board is accountable to the membership of the Association and to funders for specific programs and initiatives, as well as working with the sector to develop the child welfare system.

The Board is composed of 16 directors elected at the annual meeting of the membership. The Board includes a board chair, vice chair, past board chair, 6 agency board directors (one from each zone), 6 agency staff directors (one from each zone), and 2 directors-at-large.

The OACAS Board of Directors governs the Association, engaging in strategic processes designed to support development of an effective child welfare sector across Ontario. The Board uses a decision making framework designed to enable member agencies to speak as a sector with a unified voice on major issues affecting members and children, youth and families across Ontario. Decisions are made based on recommendations from specific Councils or the Executive leadership section, depending on the relevance of the issue to the body.

The Board uses a bi-annual planning process to identify key sector priorities that will be addressed collectively over the subsequent 24 months to strengthen the child welfare sector. The planning process is inclusive of member societies in identifying issues that they commit to work on collectively and to implementing shared decisions locally within their respective jurisdictions.


The Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS) is a membership organization representing 45 of 48 mandated children’s aid societies (CASs) in Ontario. The Statement of Benefits & Responsibilities of OACAS Membership acts as a membership agreement.

OACAS provides associate membership to pre-mandated Indigenous child welfare agencies. Four organizations are currently associate members: Nog-da-win-da-min Family and Community Services, Six Nations of the Grand River, Mnaasged Child and Family Services and Dnaagdawenmag Binnoojiiyag Child and Family Services.

Legislative Framework for Children’s Aid Societies and OACAS

Ontario’s CASs, on behalf of the Province of Ontario, are legislated under the Child, Youth and Family Services Act (CYFSA) as the only authorities with the mandate to

  • Investigate allegations of abuse and neglect
  • Protect children, when necessary
  • Provide services to families in order to protect children and to prevent circumstances requiring the protection of children
  • Provide care or supervision for children assigned to its care
  • Place children for public adoption

Each CAS is a community-based not-for-profit corporation with charitable status, governed by an elected board of community members under the Not-for-profit Corporations Act.

OACAS is a registered charity operating under the framework of legislative requirements, including those required by the Not-for-profit Corporations Act, Health and Safety Act, and other programs and obligations for employers in Ontario (Employment Insurance, Canada Pension and Income Tax, Ontario Employer Health Tax, and Goods and Services Tax). Government relations are conducted in keeping with the Lobbyists Registration Act. OACAS also submits an annual report, as required under the Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act.

Achievements of 2015–2016 Operational Plan

Each year the Association develops operational plans to support achievement of the strategic directions. The plans recognize changes in the social and economic environment, local agency experiences and emerging issues. The achievements in each year contribute to the OACAS achievement of its strategic priorities and overall, improvements to child welfare in Ontario.

During 2015 -16 there were achievements toward each of the Strategic Directions. Following are examples of achievements within the framework of the operational plan:

Strategic Direction 1: Lead members and engage with partners in the development of a seamless, integrated children’s services system that responds effectively and respectfully to the diverse realities of children, youth, and families across Ontario.

  • Youth: 150 youth engaged in Youth Civics Day 2015; Project and report completed focused on services for LGBT2SQ youth; 59 new awards to youth using the funds from Clark Bursary, PhD and Children’s Aid Foundation
  • Service system: Motherisk Project included development of tools for data collection and leadership to sector response to Lang Report; CPIN Project provided on site and remote support to 6 CASs during go-live as well as active participation in the CPIN governance structure; Sector action plan focusing on recommendations from Inquest into death of Jeffrey Baldwin
  • Structure and efficiencies of system: Shared Services Project completed Business Case for Shared Services

Strategic Direction 2: Build the public’s confidence in and engagement with child welfare through an accountable and transparent system.

  • Public engagement and reporting: sector resource materials and publication of reporting of Performance Indicators;  new OACAS public website
  • Transparency in system: New materials for public educating on  “duty to report” child protection concerns

Strategic Direction 3: Along with its member agencies, OACAS will support and collaborate with the Indigenous communities in bettering the health, well-being, and life chances of Indigenous children in Ontario.

  • Indigenous children and youth: Annual gathering at Bark Lake included more than 91 youth and 31 chaperones attending
  • Increasing knowledge of agencies: Other Side of the Door training plan implemented:  4318 copies of Other Side of the Door books in use in agencies
  • OACAS leadership to collaboration: Reconciliation Framework survey completed and evidence of actions underway with all agencies;  Development of Creating One Mind Think Tank for conversations with Indigenous leadership about acknowledgement and apology considerations

 Strategic Direction 4: Strengthen the capacity of the Association and its member agencies to fulfill their mandates.

  • Increasing member and organizational capacity: Decision making framework confirmed;  continued provision of governance webinars, development and distribution of resources for Boards as well as both Indigenous  and non-Indigenous governance forums; Sector wide Call to Action initiated
  • OACAS Information Technology, Human Resources and Financial systems modernized

External Influences for Planning for 2016–2017

Key external influences shape the environment in which the OACAS and local agencies are working provincially and in local communities.  They also shape the planning undertaken and directions established.  OACAS planning recognizes the influences of the economic environment of Ontario and employment challenges for many of the people served by local agencies.  Reduced confidence levels in the reliability of the work of child welfare within the public have been recognized as a key influence for planning. Commitment to advocacy toward increasing public confidence is part of the plan for 2016 – 17. Community expectations for services that are culturally aligned with the entitlements and needs of Indigenous as well as Black Canadians have resonated as key areas to inform planning and development.

OACAS and member agencies regularly respond to the outcomes of the work of oversight and system review bodies, including the Provincial Auditor General, Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, Residential Review Advisory Committee and Motherisk Review. The outputs of each of these bodies have influenced the planning for 2016 – 17. Reforms contemplated for other parts of the children and youth serving system influence the planning considerations. The changes, at sector levels, such as children’s mental health, developmental services, health care, as well as changes to provincial and federal ministry priorities and funding supports, influence planning considerations. The influence arises from the relationships and continuing impact on children, youth and families of changes in directions, funding and priorities in social, health and education as well as government systems.

OACAS planning has integrated each of the key external influences into the Operational Plan. Further, the environment in which the OACAS and local agencies work is fluid. New influences develop as each year evolves. This requires OACAS continuing attention to emerging issues by on behalf of member agencies to ensure capacity to respond to new issues and influences while maintaining focus on planned actions. The Association’s commitment to strengthening the sector’s abilities to design and implement improvements to child welfare, as a system and in individual agency practices, is evident in its responsiveness to new as well as known environmental influences. As an organization the Association considers the impact of environmental influences on its internal planning.  Influences including changes in employment trends, changes to organizational risks for operations such as associations, as well as emerging practices in human and organizational resources are considered in planning.

2016–2017 Operational Plan and Performance Expectations

OACAS taking action toward achieving Strategic Directions including sector Call to Action and emerging priorities

The Operational Plan details the goals OACAS has identified for action in each area described by the pillars of the OACAS Mission. The sections include an overview of the goals and high level indicators of success in performance for 2016 – 17. Goals are organized in keeping with the three core pillars of the OACAS Mission and are aligned with the four strategic directions of the Strategic Plan:

A leader and collaborator promoting the welfare of children, youth and families through leadership, service excellence and advocacy.

Service Excellence – Provides programs and supports its member societies to achieve service excellence

Leadership – Provides leadership for a high quality child welfare system that keeps children and youth safe and strengthens families

Advocacy – Influences improvements through a unified and trusted voice for child protection and the well-being of children, youth and families.

Service Excellence

The commitments of OACAS in its delivery of programs to and on behalf of member agencies, youth and staff of agencies are reflected in goals for continuous improvement. The commitments are responsive to the current landscape and priorities, described above. These commitments align with strategic directions and are expected to increase the capacity of the programs and result in accessible, inclusive programs offered by the OACAS on behalf of its member agencies.

Goals and Performance Expectations


OACAS actions align with its leadership for continuous improvement within the child welfare sector. OACAS staff are committed to aligning their work to provide leadership and support to achieve each of the goals in partnership with the sector and stakeholder partners.

Goals and Performance Expectations

Advocacy and Stakeholder Relations

The following goals reflect the commitments of OACAS on behalf of its member agencies to engage in advocacy and engagement. The advocacy and engagement with provincial and federal government offices, with stakeholders, including the public, are intended to result in strengthening of child welfare and social supports needed by families. The actions are expected to contribute to achievement of an aligned system of policy and services that responds effectively to the diverse needs of children, youth and families across Ontario.

Goals and Performance Expectations

Foundational Changes in OACAS as an Organization

This section reflects changes planned for both OACAS internal systems required to modernize the organization and its relationships with member agencies and the public.

Goals and Performance Expectations

OACAS Organizational Chart

OACAS Org Chart Positions April 2016

View our 2015-2016 Financial Statements









Ontario’s Broader Public Sector Accountability Act guides public reporting activities at OACAS.