Reporting Child Abuse – Canada
Call Your Local Child Abuse Hotline, or
- Contact your local Child and Family Services Authority
- Delegated First Nations Agency
What information will you need to provide?
- Your name and telephone number (all reports are confidential however you may choose to remain anonymous)
- How long have you known the child/family?
- What is your relationship to the child/family?
- Information about the family
- What is your concern about the child(ren)?
- What have you seen/heard?
- What has the child or others told you?
- Where is the child now?
- What supports (formal or informal) are involved with the family?
What happens once a report is made?
The information provided by the caller will be reviewed and referred for investigation as needed. Based on the outcome of the investigation, the child and their family may be referred to community supports, receive family enhancement services or actions to further protect the child may be taken.
Child Abuse Hotline – To get help or report abuse, call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline
http://www.childhelp.org/ — 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453)
- Serving the United States, its territories, and Canada, the Hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with professional crisis counsellors who, through interpreters, can provide assistance in 170 languages. The Hotline offers crisis intervention, information, literature, and referrals to thousands of emergency, social service, and support resources. All calls are anonymous and confidential.
- Kids Help Line anywhere in Canada
- British Columbia: Helpline For Children
- 310-1234 (no area code needed)
- Alberta: Child Abuse Hotline
- Saskatchewan: Child Abuse Line
- Manitoba: Klinic Crisis Line
- 1-888-322-3019, in Winnipeg dial 786-8686
- Teen Touch 1-800-563-TEEN (8336), in Winnipeg dial 783-1116
- Ministry of Children and Youth Services 1-866-821-7770
- Tel-Jeunes: 1-800-263-2266
- New Brunswick
- Chimo Help Line 1-800-667-5005
- Nova Scotia
- The Youth Help Line 1-800-420-TEEN (8336)
- Prince Edward island
- Helpline Western Arctic (everyday 7-11 p.m) 1-800-661-0844
- Yukon Territories
- Yukon Crisis Line 1-867-668-9111
- Sexual Asault/Family Violence 403-667-4000
- Northwest Territories
- Helpline Western Arctic (everyday 7-11 pm) 1-800-661-0844
Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect
If you suspect a child is being abused, it’s critical to get them the help he or she needs. Reporting child abuse seems so official. Many people are reluctant to get involved in other families’ lives. Understanding some of the myths behind reporting may help put your mind at ease if you need to report child abuse:
I don’t want to interfere in someone else’s family. The effects of child abuse are life-long, affecting future relationships, self-esteem, and sadly putting even more children at risk of abuse as the cycle continues. Help break the cycle of child abuse.
What if I break up someone’s home? The priority in child protective services is keeping children in the home. A child abuse report does not mean a child is automatically removed from the home – unless the child is clearly in danger. Support such as parenting classes, anger management or other resources may be offered first to parents if safe for the child.
They will know it was me who called. Reporting is anonymous. In most states, you do not have to give your name when you report child abuse. The child abuser cannot find out who made the report of child abuse.
It won’t make a difference what I have to say. If you have a gut feeling that something is wrong, it is better to be safe than sorry. Even if you don’t see the whole picture, others may have noticed as well, and a pattern can help identify child abuse that might have otherwise slipped through the cracks.
Reporting Suspected Child Abuse
The Canadian Bar Association: British Columbia Branch
The protection of children is considered one of society’s greatest obligations
In addition to the normal rules of criminal and civil law that apply to everyone, there’s also specific provincial legislation called the Child, Family and Community Service Act, which is intended to protect children from sexual and physical abuse and neglect. The Act defines a child as any person under 19.
How is abuse and the neglect of children defined?
The law defines these things as follows:
- Physical abuse: This means any physical force or action by a parent or adult which could injure a child and which exceeds “reasonable discipline.”
- Sexual abuse: This means any sexual touching or intercourse between a child and an older person, or using a child for sexual purposes.
- Sexual exploitation: This is a form of sexual abuse that occurs when a child engages in sexual activity, usually through manipulation or coercion, in exchange for money, drugs, food, shelter other things.
- Emotional harm: This is defined as a child having serious anxiety, depression, withdrawal or self-destructive/aggressive behaviours due to persistent emotional abuse by a parent, such as scapegoating, blaming, rejection, threats, insults or humiliation. Emotional harm can also happen to children who witness violence in their homes.
- Neglect: This means a parent failing to look after the physical, emotional or medical needs of a child, so that the child’s health, development or safety is endangered.
You must report suspected child abuse or neglect
If you have reason to believe that a child has been or is likely to be abused or neglected or is in need of protection, section 14 of the Child, Family and Community Service Act requires you to report your suspicions to the Ministry of Children and Family Development. “Reason to believe” means that you believe a child could be at risk, based on what you have seen or information you have. You don’t need proof. Just report what you know.
It doesn’t matter if you think someone else is reporting the situation or if a child welfare worker is already involved with the child – you must still make a report. It also doesn’t matter if the suspected abuser is your neighbour, patient, family member, church member or other person. Your duty to report your suspicions takes legal priority over any claim of confidentiality or privilege.
It is an offence not to report suspicions of abuse or neglect. The only exception is for a lawyer who may have concerns that involve his or her client.
You won’t be sued or prosecuted for reporting your suspicions
The Child, Family and Community Service Act protects you from being sued or prosecuted for reporting a suspected abuser. This assumes, of course, that you are acting in good faith and on reasonable grounds when you report your suspicions.
How do you make a report?
You may make a report by calling either of the following:
- A Ministry of Children and Family Development office in your area
- The 24-hour toll-free Children’s Help Line for reporting suspected abuse. Dial 310.1234 anywhere in BC. You don’t need to dial an area code
If a child is in immediate danger, call the police
Dial 911 or the operator and ask for police assistance.
What happens when you make a report?
The report that you make to the Ministry will be taken by a social worker. The social worker will want as much relevant information as possible from you, including the name and address of the child, the parents, anyone else involved, and the reasons why you think that the child has been or will be abused or neglected.
You don’t have to give your name when you make a report
But it’s helpful for the social worker to have your name. Unless a criminal court hearing results from criminal charges being laid by police and you’re needed as a witness, your name will remain confidential. However, even if your name isn’t released, your identity may become known due to the specifics of the information you provide.
The social worker will look into the matter
The social worker will assess the information that you provide and determine the most appropriate response to ensure the child’s safety and well-being and to help the family care safely for the child. The responses can include:
- Taking no further action
- Referring the family to support services
- Where concerns for the safety of the child exist, providing a “family development response” or conducting an investigation
What is a family development response?
A family development response may be provided for less serious allegations of abuse or neglect when the child’s parents will work cooperatively with the social worker. This response involves an intensive, time-limited, supportive approach. It consists of an assessment of the family’s strengths and problem areas, and the provision of support services to help the family while monitoring the child’s safety.
When is a child abuse investigation done?
If you report allegations of serious abuse or neglect, the social worker may decide to conduct a child abuse investigation. If the allegations involve physical or sexual abuse, the social worker will also advise the police, who may conduct their own investigation as well.
The investigation and prosecution of abuse cases is sensitive to the feelings of children. Whenever possible, the Ministry of Children and Family Development and the police conduct a joint investigation to reduce the number of interviews and the anxiety felt by a child involved in the process.
Will the child be removed from the home?
If the child is in danger of continued abuse or neglect during or at the end of an investigation and there are no other ways of keeping the child safe, the child may be taken into the care of the Ministry or placed with a relative or other person who has a significant relationship with the child.
What about criminal charges?
If the police determine that a criminal offence has been committed, they may decide to lay criminal charges against the abuser that will result in criminal court hearings. The prosecutor works with the police and the Ministry in alleged child abuse cases to make the court experience less upsetting for a child.
Is there help for victims of child abuse?
If you or someone you know has been a victim of child abuse, there may be an organization in your community that can provide help and support. If you don’t know who to contact, call the toll-free Victims Information Line at 1.800.563.0808.