Family Responsibility Office received 1,000+ complaints last year, needs 'urgent change' (CBC Toronto)
By Kate McGillivray
Nov 04, 2016
A Toronto mother says she's been in bureaucratic limbo for more than six months after filing an application with the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) in order to retrieve missing child support payments.
Simone Dadoun filed her application with the help of her attorney in May after struggling to get child support from the father of three of her kids. After hearing nothing, she finally got through to an FRO agent, who told her that her application didn't exist and that she'd have to start all over again.
"It's the only resource we have as parents. You're waiting six months, and you hear, 'we don't even know who you are,'" she told CBC's Metro Morning on Friday.
In the meantime, Dadoun moved to a less expensive home to save money. "You try to free up as many assets as you can [for your kids]," she said.
Office 'in urgent need of change'
Dadoun's situation is common, said Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé.
His office received approximately 1,000 complaints last year about the Family Responsibility Office, more than any other provincial government organization.
"It's in urgent need of change," Dube told Metro Morning.
"People forget there's a person on the other end of that document. Sometimes they need a reminder of that."
Dubé said that the FRO is starting to improve due to personnel and leadership changes made by the government, but that there's still "much work to be done."
His office has been meeting with FRO leadership quarterly to raise red flags and highlight problematic cases.
For Dadoun, better access to information would be a good start.
"Once you send that file off, it can't just disappear into the system," she said.
Ministry acknowledges 'more work to do'
In a statement from the office of Minister Helena Jaczek, the Ministry of Community and Social Services highlighted the FRO's achievements in 2015.
"We put $697 million into the hands of families — the most money we've collected in one year," the statement read.
It also said that cases are being opened faster than before and that a new unit within the FRO has been established to work with people who have made complaints.
The statement ends with an acknowledgement that more work still has to be done. "We are committed to find ways to better serve our clients," it read.
For Dadoun, the change hasn't come fast enough.
After being told to re-file her application, she was instructed that she would have to wait a minimum of two-and-a-half more months for a result.