In an unprecedented move, the entire board of directors has announced it will resign from the Brant Family and Children's Services, but the ministry looking after its funding says it isn't for lack of trying on their part.

The move comes amid changes to funding brought about in June, and in the midst of "the worst opioid crisis in the province," a press release says.

"The Board takes (protecting children) very seriously and we believe that government underfunding has put the safety of our community’s vulnerable children at risk," Board of Directors President Paul Whittam said in part in a statement. "It is no longer possible to fulfill our mandate."

A press release indicates that the organization has seen reduced funding since 2016, which has resulted in pay freezes, understaffing and layoffs.

The release blames the provincial government, which "has refused to provide the funding necessary" to deliver adequate service.

But a spokesperson for the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services says that multiple governments have tried to assist the Brant FACS with making decisions "consistent to its mandate."

"In fact, our ministry and the Board participated in an operational review, completed in June 2019," says press secretary Christine Wood. "The review raised several significant concerns which our ministry is addressing."

That review reportedly included 72 recommendations, and raised the following issues, Wood says:

  • the number of investigations completed by the organization had decreased by 20 per cent since 2013-2014
  • the number of full-time employees numbered 29 more than the average among other comparable socities
  • a lack of evidence showing any link between the opioid crisis and the agency's financial issues

It's that review that Brant FACS says was the last straw, as it reportedly contained recommendations to withdraw from community sites, dial back services and reduce staff.

The board of directors claims that financial mismanagement is not to blame either, noting that a ministry review done earlier this year indicated that the organization had been "well-governed, operated efficiently, and had sufficient financial controls in place to operate within expectations."

"Moreover, it is affronting and deplorable that, within the Operational Review’s Terms of Reference, the Ministry expressly disallowed any discussion or consideration of the child welfare funding model," the release goes on.

It says that the government has refused to discuss funding to help the Brant FCS navigate its financial issues. According to the release, requests to meet with the minister have been unsuccessful.

But in a follow-up statement, the ministry's spokesperson says that different governments have helped the organization with deficit reporting and planning, regular financial reviews and training related to the new funding approach.

June's review also reportedly found that Brant FCS was providing money outside of its mandate, the spokesperson for the ministry says.

"Without a suitable solution that addresses our underfunding, we will be approaching insolvency later this fiscal year," added Whittam. "Despite all our efforts to bring this issue to the attention of the Ministry, the Minister, and our MPP, the Board believes that this is the only avenue left open to it."

With that, the board of directors found it had no choice but to resign from the agency, which has been in operation for well over a century. Their resignations will take effect on Friday.

The spokesperson for the ministry says they are taking steps to make sure the board's resignation doesn't impact the safety of kids in the organization's care.

A previous version of this story suggested that the board of directors had already resigned. In fact, their resignations will be tendered on Friday.