Toronto — October is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and this year the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS) and Children’s Aid Societies (CAS) will highlight how calls from the community play a vital role in preventing child abuse in Ontario. Last year over 171,000 Ontarians reached out to Children’s Aid with concerns about the safety of a child, an indication of the extent to which the community safety net is working.
But leading child welfare researchers say that there needs to be more education about what a referral to Children’s Aid means, because many people feel guilty after they make that call. “There is a public misconception about what child welfare services do,” says Nico Trocmé, Director of the School of Social Work at McGill University. “People are concerned that Children’s Aid Societies are child snatchers. They do not realize that connecting to Children’s Aid means getting access to a level of in-home, on-site services that no other social service will provide the way Children’s Aid Societies do.”
In 2013, children remained with their families in 97% of CAS investigations, a statistic that comes as a surprise to many people. This focus on in-home, early intervention services is part of the transformation of the Ontario child welfare system that started a decade ago. This approach is based on the recognition that early intervention can reduce the need for more intrusive services later, and that children flourish in a caring family setting. Early intervention services offered by Children’s Aid include counselling and parenting programs and substance abuse treatment.
“I had my back up when I learned that a teacher had called with some concerns,” says a mother of four children. “But I had no idea how much a CAS could help. I also had no idea how much I needed help.” The support this family received included frequent visits from a family service worker, anger management classes for the children’s father, and summer camp opportunities.
Teachers, followed by police, make the highest number of referrals to Children’s Aid. Professionals as well as the public are required by law, as described in the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, to promptly report any suspicions.
“Ontario citizens have a duty to report suspected child abuse and neglect. It is important to raise awareness of this responsibility so we can keep our children safe,” says Tracy MacCharles, Minister of Children and Youth Services.
For more information about Child Abuse Prevention Month or to arrange interviews, please contact:
About the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies: Since 1912, OACAS has represented Ontario’s Children’s Aid Societies in Ontario and provided service in the areas of government relations, communications, information management, education and training to advocate for the protection and well-being of children. http://www.oacas.org.