Archive for category Jane Rounthwaite
I’ve had several parents come up too me with their stories since last week’s post on my son’s situation. There seems to be a large number of fights and battles with regional service providers like Kinark across the province that manage services for kids with autism too get kids the services they need. It’s important to note that these service providers fall within direct oversight of the Ministry of Children and Youth Services. The Ontario Autism Coalition has been fielding complaints from parents regarding these service providers as well. Too simply state that my son’s situation is an isolated incident would be to undermine the enormity and severity of some of the problems parents are reporting to advocates regarding regional service providers across the province. Kinark has been named one of the top three worst service providers in the province for parental complaints by the Ontario Autism Coalition.
In 2006, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s spouse Jane Rounthwaite worked as a consultant with Kinark. According to ontariosunshinelist.com there was a spike in 2004 where the total number of employees at Kinark that were paid $100,000 or more reached 29. Prior to when the Ontario Liberals took office in 2003, Kinark only had about 1 – 2 people making over $100,000. When Rounthwaite was hired by Kinark in 2006, the total number of people employed by Kinark making over $100,000 was around 8. In 2015 that number has ballooned to 22 people working for Kinark that are making over $100,000 (click image to enlarge):
There was quite obviously a problem with this organizations management back in 2004 with ballooning overhead costs, in which I would think was the primary reason why the organization was looking for a contractor to “fix” the issue. Somehow, Rounthwaite got the contract. It’s still not clear why Rounthwaite was given that contract. Wynne was the education minister at the time, and Rounthwaite was a principle stakeholder in the contracting company hired by Kinark. To date the public isn’t clear on what Rounthwaite’s involvement with Kinark was. Questions journalists had while investigating Rounthwaite’s involvement with Kinark have been repeatedly blocked by the government, and the issue hasn’t seen the light of day with the ethics commissioner for proper follow up either.
What we are seeing from an advocacy point of view; a steady increase in people employed by Kinark making over $100,000 since Rounthwaite’s involvement, with a lot of complaints coming in regarding the treatment of eligible families for services in which Kinark oversees (full disclosure my family is one of those).
What’s worse right now is that there seems to be a lack of enforcement by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services regarding their own “guidelines”. There seems to be a lack of legislation to hold these regional service providers in line with those guidelines and/or enforcement of these guidelines to ensure that families get the services they need. The most recent issue that has come up, is that those parents who received money for their kids for transitional services while they wait for the new autism program to be implemented are being misled by these service providers in thinking the best option for services is to spend that money with them, instead of properly informing parents of their choices and rights to seek treatment outside of these providers as per ministerial guidelines.
There is a huge push right now in the autism movement to provide all families with immediate funding for services to get the kids what they need now while they wait for the new program too roll out. By providing every family affected now with money to purchase services while they wait, it would be cheaper for the province in the long run, but also put the parents in charge of their kid’s therapies. However there is also a problem that has crept up with that as well outside of many not receiving the money.
The province during its announcement to give families the support they need, upped the amount of money they were giving families for DFO to $10,000 until the new autism program would be in place. It seems like kids over the age of 5 are not receiving the full amount (a proposal was sent to the Ministry of Children and Youth Services to fix the issue yesterday), and some due to administrative issues with regional providers are ineligible to receive anything. Allegations are also surfacing by those that have received the funding that the government is tying their hands on what type of support and intensity of therapy they can receive with this money.
So as we go further down the rabbit hole, there seems to be an upset in the balance of accountability and enforcement where these regional service providers are not providing the services to the kids that need them, misinforming parents, ignoring ministerial guidelines, and what looks to be quite the issue with overhead costs of these non-profit service providers, along with government tying the hands of parents who are looking outside these providers for services with money provided to these families by government until the new program rolls out.
Pile on the fact only a select few got this money to begin with in which that process for eligibility is in the hands of these providers; it becomes a sick and cruel joke on all families and kids affected by this “transition” that need support NOW! All this at the expense of Wynne trying to save a few bucks, while these regional providers run insane overhead with no accountability or enforcement under the Ministry of Children and Youth Services.
The plot thickens. Stay tuned…
(Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Spouse Jane Rounthwaite Worked as a Consultant in Autism Services While Parents Fought Government in Court in 2006)
As the world celebrates Autism Awareness Day, parents in Ontario got extremely devastating news this past week that needed autism therapy would be no longer available after the age of 5. Back in 2006 parents in Ontario fought the government on a similar age cut off.
During the last time the province tried to cut this therapy off at an early age, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne was the Education Minister and her spouse Jane Rounthwaite was a principle shareholder in The Osborne Group, which is a consulting firm widely used by the publicly funded Autism service provider in York/Durham called Kinark. According to the Toronto Sun in 2013, Rounthwaite owned a 40% stake in The Osborne Group, and was directly employed by Kinark at the time parents were fighting the age restrictions:
How much she made during those seven years — while the McGuinty government fought a move in court to extend intensive therapy for autistic kids beyond age six — is unknown. Whether her contract was subject to a tender process is also unknown.
Both the premier’s office and Kinark could not provide that information prior to my deadline, despite repeated requests to do so.
A review of Kinark’s condensed statements of operations during that period yielded no information. Nor did finance ministry disclosure documents.
What is also unknown is whether the Ethics Commissioner back then did a full and complete investigation of Rounthwaite’s involvement with Kinark, and whether her involvement with Kinark extends to these latest developments regarding autism services. The government has earmarked $333 million to “improve” autism services in Ontario. It is unclear how much Kinark will be receiving as a result, and unclear what other autism public service providers Rounthwaite or The Osborne Group has been involved in since 2006.
What is clear however is the reaction from the parents of autistic kids who will no longer be receiving a critical part of therapy. I posted this past week on comments left on Autism Ontario’s facebook page by angry parents. On the Autism Ontario facebook page, the organization provided this statement to parents:
Hi everybody – we’ve been very grateful for all of your comments, thoughts, viewpoints, criticisms, and suggestions. We have taken all of your feedback and delivered it directly to the Ministry so they are aware of the impact their announcement and our response had with the autism community. We are glad this thread has been an opportunity to connect, share information and support one another.
Tracy MacCharles, Minister of Children and Youth Services stated in a recent interview regarding the backlash:
“I know that transitions and changes are hard and I know that first-hand as a mother of a child with special needs,” she added.
“Why we’re doing this is to make sure that children get the best possible treatments in the appropriate development window as we’ve been advised by experts and families.”
Parents, who have long disagreed with the notion that autism therapy should be limited to early year development, have started a twitter hashtag #autismdoesntendat5. There are also questions on whether this new policy is discriminatory on human rights, and sources I’ve been in touch with are getting ready to launch a law suit against the province on these recent changes.
What the people of Ontario should be questioning at this time, is whether the experts consulted are tied to Wynne’s family, and why Rounthwaite’s involvement with Kinark hasn’t been fully and completely investigated?
Read more about the government’s decision on cutting needed therapy and parents reactions from across the province here.
UPDATE 4/14/2016: Sue-Ann Levy the investigating reporter was recently interviewed by Toronto radio station am640, in which she also alleges that Rounthwaite could have very well benefited financially from the recent changes to autism policy in Ontario. That interview can be found here. Rounthwaite made a total of $1,000,000 over seven years with her involvement at Kinark, and worked closely with a member of the expert panel the government hired to put forth the new autism policy.
Also 2 weeks ago I put in a request for comment on this story from Autism Ontario. They have not responded to repeated requests for comment. Autism Ontario is currently helping the Wynne government sell this new policy to parents through “webinars”.