Reporting suspected child abuse
Our legislation mandates that, anyone who knows or believes that any of the following circumstances apply to a child, that person must report the same inferences to the Ministry of Family and Children’s services. The phone number is: 604-310-1234:
- the child has been, or is likely to be, physically harmed by the child’s parent;
- the child has been, or is likely to be, sexually abused or exploited by the child’s parent;
- the child has been, or is likely to be, physically harmed, sexually abused or sexually exploited by another person and if the child’s parent is unwilling or unable to protect the child;
- the child has been, or is likely to be, physically harmed because of neglect;
- the child is emotionally harmed by the parent’s conduct;
- the child is deprived of necessary health care or necessary consent to health care if refused by the parent;
- the child’s parent is unable or unwilling to care for the child;
- the child is or has been absent from home in circumstances that endanger the child’s safety or well-being;
- the child’s parent is dead and adequate provision has not been made for the child’s care;
- the child has been abandoned and adequate provision has not been made for the child’s care, etc;
The Ministry will assess the situation and considers various means of ensuring the child is safe such as: in-home supervision, coming up with plans to better care for the child or suggesting an agreement between the parents and the child to better care for the child. If the child is in imminent risk of harm, the Ministry can remove the child from your care.
Each child protection investigation can include:
- seeing and interviewing the children as soon as possible;
- checking out the children’s living conditions;
- interviewing the parents;
- reviewing whatever documents and reports are available and relevant to the report; and
- getting information from people who know the family and the children.
At the end of the investigation, the Ministry may call the police for assistance and help for protecting at risk children.
Rights of Parents if Child Abuse is Reported
The parents have the right to tell their side of the story and to ask questions when child abuse is reported. They also have the right to have a lawyer or someone else with them at meetings with the social worker. The family must be given as much information as possible about the progress of the investigation and the available support services.
What happens after a child protection investigation?
When an investigation is completed, there are two possible outcomes: a decision that the children don’t need protection or a decision that they do need protection.
If the children do not need protection, that is the end of the inquiry. If they do, the Ministry can do many things, the most extreme of which is removing the children from the parent’s home.
If the children are removed, there will be a “presentation hearing.”
Within 7 days of removing a child from the parent’s home, the Ministry must hold a protection hearing and the judge must determine whether the children should be kept away or returned to their home. If the children are to be kept away, a ‘protection hearing’ will be necessary.
The protection hearing must begin within 45 days after the presentation hearing.
If, at the beginning of the protection hearing the parents and social worker can’t agree on what should happen next, the judge will order that a case conference take place. A case conference is a meeting of the parents, the social worker, their lawyers and a judge to discuss the case and see if an agreement can be worked out. Mediators can also assist with reaching agreements.
If the parent believes his/her contact with the children has been wrongfully removed by the Ministry
In many child custody cases, one parent may make false reports to the Ministry alleging that his/her child has been physically or sexually harmed by his/her partner. In some cases, these allegations are not true. Once a report of physical or sexual abuse is made to the Ministry, the Ministry often reports it to the police or has the child undergo a medical examination to see whether there is any evidence of such abuse. These actions are all a part of the Ministry’s investigation.
During this investigation period, the accused parent will either often have no right to see the child or will have the liberty to have supervised contact with the child.
If you believe that you have been wrongfully accused of abusing your child and have no or little contact with her/him as a result, the following are steps you can take to ensure contact is re-established with the child:
- Seek a Court Order to see all medical files relating to the child including results of physical examinations;
- Seek a court Order that the police and the Ministry produce their investigation records to see what reports your spouse has made and how the investigation was done;
- Ask for a s.211 report under the Family Law Act to have a psychologist assess the emotional estate of your spouse who made such allegations;
- Immediately apply to the Court and set down a Hearing to have a judge determine whether your child was or was not abused by you.
To obtain more information or to set up a consultation, please contact us.