What Do I Do If I Suspect Abuse?

Teachers and other professionals working with children often develop trusting relationships that allow insight into a child’s life to which other adults and caregivers may not have access. Trust your feelings. If you’re worried about a student’s safety or well-being, consult with a child protection agency.

Each province and territory in Canada has its own legislation with respect to child abuse and “a child in need of protection” or “child whose security or development is in danger,” although they all address neglect, physical, sexual and emotional abuse, and the death of a parent. Each province and territory addresses:

  • the age of a child who is entitled to protection under the law;
  • the duty to report;
  • confidentiality; and
  • failing to report.

It is imperative that all individuals who provide services to children and families be familiar with current provincial/territorial legislation with respect to their protection; keep up to date on any relevant legislative changes.

When there are concerns or doubts as to whether the indicators support suspicions of child abuse and reporting requirements, consult with a worker from the local child protection agency. It’s best to avoid speaking with anyone else about the details of the suspicions until speaking with a child protection worker.

It’s also advisable to consult with a child protection worker before informing a parent/caregiver that you are consulting/reporting to a child protection agency, or that you have already done so. To do so could jeopardize the child and/or the investigation and court proceedings.


Role of a child protection agency:

Child protection and safety are central to the role of a child protection agency. It is child protection worker’s job to investigate an allegation of child abuse to determine if it can be verified, and the extent to which protection is necessary for that child.

Reporting to a child protection agency may also result in the investigation and/or protection of other children who may have been abused or are at risk for abuse by an alleged offender (e.g., a babysitter who looks after children from several families).


Role of the police:

The police investigate allegations of child abuse to determine if a criminal offence has occurred. They are responsible for the criminal investigation, identification of the alleged offender, and the arrest and laying of criminal charges where there is evidence to do so.

The police may no longer continue to be involved if there are no grounds for a criminal investigation. The child protection agency may remain involved if there are protection issues.

Click here for a list of Ontario child protection agencies (http://www.oacas.org/childwelfare/locate.htm)