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Who has a legal obligation to report child abuse?

Everyone has a legal duty to report child abuse but some professionals while having the same duty to report child abuse, may be in a better position to know if a child is being abused if they work with children. That could mean that they need to be extra vigilant as to whether a child is being abused which possibly imposes a heightened obligation on them to report child abuse.

The obligation to report child abuse is actually enforced by provincial and territorial law or as professional obligations.

Duty of people to report child abuse

The duty of people to report child abuse is often set down in provincial/territorial legislation.

For example, under the Nova Scotia Children and Family Services Act, the legislation imposes a duty upon people which requires them to report information they have about a child being abused to the appropriate agency.

Similarly, the Northwest Territories has the Child and Family Services Act which says that should a person have information that a child is in need of protection then this person must report this to a child protection worker or else a police officer.

Duty of professionals to report child abuse

Professionals may be obligated by their professional associations, workplace policies or provincial laws to report child abuse.

For example, Ontario has the Child, Youth and Family Services Act (CYFSA) states that not only must the public report suspicions that a child is being abused but professionals who work with children may be even more called upon to detect and report child abuse. The CYFSA especially calls on professionals or those who perform official duties to report child abuse where there are reasonable grounds; there is a $5,000 fine for a professional who fails to do so.

Another example of this duty is reflected in Ontario’s College of Teachers advisory released in 2015, to remind all Ontario teachers that they have a duty to report abuse or neglect of children and youth.

Under the professional misconduct regulation, college members can be found guilty of professional misconduct if they fail to comply with duties under the CFSA.

Quebec has a similar law in the Youth Protection Act of Quebec, which states that any professional who provides care or dispenses services to children or adolescents, any employee of an institution, any teacher or any policeman has an obligation to report all situations, even if that person has privileged information, if he/she has reason to believe the child is in any way in danger.

How do I report?

In most provinces and territories, there are great onuses placed on professionals who work with children to report child abuse if they suspect that is going on at the home, whether it be by statute, professional obligation or both.

For example, in British Columbia the number to report child abuse is 1-800 663-9122. However, every province or territory has either a similar number they can call for their province or territory, or else you would call a child welfare agency or your local police station.

In order to report the incident or suspicion, you would likely have to give information that includes but is not limited to:

  • The child’s or youth’s name and location;
  • Whether there are any immediate concerns about the child’s or youth’s safety;
  • Why you believe the child or youth is at risk;
  • Any statements or disclosures made by the child or youth.

Though professionals must be extra-vigilant when it comes to reporting children who are in need of protection, even non-professionals still have the duty to report if they know or have reasonable grounds to believe a child is in need of protection.

Read more:

Ontario Child, Youth and Family Services Act 2017

Reporting Child Abuse British Columbia