Duty to report

The saying “it takes a village to raise a child” is never more true than when we talk about protecting children. Keeping the most vulnerable members of our community safe is the responsibility of everyone. If you have any reason to believe that a child is in need of protection or is at risk of harm, make the call to Children’s Aid.

If you have reasonable grounds to suspect a child is in need of help, you need to make the call. It isn’t up to you to prove or investigate the abuse but it is up to you to reach out and help protect the child.

Under section 125 of the Child, Youth and Family Services Act every person who has reasonable grounds to suspect that a child is or may be in need of protection must promptly report the suspicion and the information upon which it is based to a Children’s Aid Society. This includes persons who perform professional or official duties with respect to children, such as health care workers, teachers, operators or employees of child care programs or centres, police and lawyers. In 2018 the age of protection was raised to include youth up to 18 years old. Youth who are 16 and 17 years old are now eligible to receive protection services from Children’s Aid Societies. While reporting for 16 and 17-year-old youth is not mandatory, please contact your local Children’s Aid Society if you have concerns about a youth.

It is not necessary to be certain that a child is or may be in need of protection to make a report to a children’s aid society. “Reasonable grounds” refers to the information that an average person, using normal and honest judgment, would need in order to decide to report. This standard has been recognized by courts in Ontario as establishing a low threshold for reporting. The role of the Children’s Aid Societies is to investigate calls made by the public using a professional and standardized process. The person making the report should bring forward their concerns and Children’s Aid will determine if there is a sufficient basis to warrant further assessment of the concerns about the child. Research indicates that many professionals overreport families based on stereotypes around racial identities. Both Indigenous and African-Canadian children and youth are overrepresented in child welfare due to systemic racism. Stereotypes around poverty can also lead to overreporting. While poverty is a risk factor for children and youth, it is not a cause of child maltreatment.

A document called “Yes, You Can. Dispelling the Myths About Sharing Information with Children’s Aid Societies” was jointly released by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario and the Ontario Provincial Advocate. The document, targeted at professionals who work with children, is a critical reminder that a call to Children’s Aid is not a privacy violation when it concerns the safety of a child. In fact, professionals who work with children have a special responsibility, as stated in the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, to protect the safety and well-being of children.

A screener from Children’s Aid talks about her role in working with the public to keep children safe.

A teacher speaks about how a call to Children’s Aid can help a student and family who are going through a crisis.