Reporting Child Maltreatment
We all share a responsibility to protect children from harm – a responsibility that extends to those situations where children suffer maltreatment in their own homes. The Child & Family Services Act provides for the protection of these children. The Act recognizes that each of us has a responsibility for the welfare of children. It states clearly that members of the public, including professionals who work with children, have an obligation to report promptly to a children’s aid society if they suspect that a child is or may be in need of protection. Section 72(1) of The Act defines the term “child in need of protection” as a child who is or who appears to be suffering from maltreatment, and sets out what must be reported to a children’s aid society.
Responsibility to Report a Child in Need of Protection
If a person has reasonable grounds to suspect that a child is or may be in need of protection, the person must promptly report the suspicion and the information upon which it is based to a children’s aid society. Section 72(1) describes the specific circumstances that must be reported. It is not necessary for you be certain a child is or may be in need of protection to make a report. “Reasonable grounds” refers to the information that an average person, exercising normal and honest judgment, would need in order to make a decision to report.
Ongoing duty to report (CFSA s.72(2))
The duty to report is an ongoing obligation. If a person has made a previous report about a child, and has additional reasonable grounds to suspect that a child is or may be in need of protection, that person must make a further report to a children’s aid society.
Persons must report directly (CFSA s. 72(3))
The person who has the reasonable grounds to suspect that a child is or may be in need of protection must make the report directly to a children’s aid society. The person must not rely on anyone else to report on his or her behalf.
Special responsibilities of professionals and officials, and penalty for failure to report (CFSA s.72(4), (6.2))
Professional persons and officials have the same duty as any member of the public to report a suspicion that a child is in need of protection. The Act recognizes, however, that persons working closely with children have a special awareness of the signs of child maltreatment, and a particular responsibility to report their suspicions, and so makes it an offence to fail to report.
Any professional or official who fails to report a suspicion that a child is or may be in need of protection where the information on which that suspicion is based was obtained in the course of his or her professional or official duties, is liable on conviction to a fine of up to $1,000.
Professionals affected (CFSA s. 72(5))
Persons who perform professional or official duties with respect to children include the following:
- Health care professionals, including physicians, nurses, dentists, pharmacists and psychologists;
- Teachers, and school principals
- Social workers and family counselors;
- Priests, rabbis and other members of the clergy;
- Operators or employees of day nurseries;
- Youth and recreation workers (not volunteers);
- Peace officers and coroners;
- Service providers and employees of service providers; and
- Any other person who performs professional or official duties with respect to a child.
This list sets out examples only. If your work involves children but is not listed above, you may still be considered to be a professional for purposes of the duty to report. If you are not sure whether you may be considered to be a professional for purposes of the duty to report, you should contact your local children’s aid society, professional association or regulatory body.
Professional Confidentiality (CFSA s. 72(7),(8))
A professional must report that a child is or may be in need of protection, even when the information is otherwise confidential or privileged. This duty overrides the provisions of any other provincial statute, and specifically overrides any provisions that would otherwise prohibit someone from making a disclosure. Only solicitors may not divulge “privileged” information about their clients.
Protection from liability (CFSA s. 72(7))
If a civil action is brought against a person who made a report, that person will be protected unless he or she acted maliciously or without reasonable grounds for his or her suspicion.
How to Contact the Children’s Aid Society
If you have concerns about a child, please contact the Children’s Aid Society. The Children’s Aid Society has an emergency service 24 hours a day.