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Suspected Child Abuse or Neglect

A Statutory Duty to Report

All professionals who work with children in the Province of Ontario are required by law to report suspected child abuse and/or neglect to their local Children's Aid Society. This requirement is outlined in Section 72(1) of the Child and Family Services Act (1990).

Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect*

Ontario’s Children’s Aid Societies received over 75,000 referrals from teachers and educators, police officers, health care professionals and members of the public last year about suspected child abuse and neglect. Everyone has an ongoing duty to report actual or suspected child abuse and neglect. Even if you have reported once already, if you see or hear of abuse happening you must report again.

When a call is made to a Children’s Aid Society, a clinically-trained child protection worker discusses the caller’s concerns and asks questions to assess the situation. Your local Children’s Aid Society will investigate the allegation of abuse and determine what action is necessary. Child protection workers, using clear standards and guidelines, investigate allegations of abuse and determine the kind of support and service needed to keep children safe and families healthy in situations involving child abuse and neglect.

Children’s Aid Societies can only act to protect children from harm when a teacher, police officer, health professional or concerned citizen calls to report their suspicions or a parent calls for assistance. Professionals working with children, including teachers and principals, have an ongoing obligation to report suspected abuse or neglect directly to their local Children’s Aid Society.

Your local Children’s Aid Society is available 24-hours a day to talk about your concerns, and the information you give, including your identity, will remain confidential where possible.

What happens when you call?*

  • When you call your local Children’s Aid Society, you will speak to an intake worker who is specially trained to listen to your concerns and ask questions before deciding how urgent the situation is and what type of intervention is needed. If a child is in imminent danger, a social worker will respond immediately.
  • If the protection worker determines that the child is not in immediate danger or risk of harm, he/she will be able to assist the family by taking a customized approach designed to connect them with community resources.
  • CAS workers are professionals who evaluate your information using comprehensive guidelines to determine the risk in each situation. Child protection workers, using clear standards and guidelines, Child Protection Standards and Tools in Ontario and the External link iconOntario Child Welfare Eligibility Spectrum, determine the kind of support and service needed to keep children safe and families healthy in situations involving child maltreatment.
  • Every report received by the CAS is reviewed by a child protection worker to determine the appropriate response. Most calls that require further investigation fall into two categories -- those that must be responded to within 12 hours, and those that must be followed up within 7 days. Individual circumstances and level of risk for the children involved determine the response times.
  • In most cases, the child and family will be offered supportive counselling to help keep the child safe and secure at home.
  • Children’s Aid Societies provide child welfare services and parenting supports to families to help them cope with stress, poverty, addiction or mental health problems.
  • Children’s Aid Societies protect children from abuse including neglect, promote their well-being within their families and communities, and provide a safe, nurturing place for children and youth to grow up.

For more information about your ongoing duty to report, visit the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies website at http://www.oacas.org/childrens-aid-child-protection/duty-to-report/.  

*This information was provided by the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies.