John Schuman provided legal commentary in this television news story about a child care provider who worried one of the children in her care was showing signs of failure to provide. Section 72 of Ontario’s Child and Family Services Act makes it mandatory for professionals who assist children to report any reasonable suspicions of child abuse or neglect to their local children’s aid society. That section also makes it an offence, punishable by a fine (soon to be a fine or imprisonment of up to two years) if the child professional does not report suspected child abuse or neglect.
There are situations where people make malicious reports to cause trouble for a child or family. Where a person maliciously makes a false report, he or she can be held liable for damages for committing the torts of intentional infliction of emotional suffering and malicious prosecution. It is certainly appropriate in those cases for the courts to hold the wrongdoer responsible for damages, and perhaps even criminal charges for mischief for taking children’s aid society resources away from kids who really need help.
However, reports by professionals to children’s aid societies are important for keeping children safe. They put at-risk kids on the agencies’ radar.
If a children’s aid society does an investigation, and concludes there is nothing wrong, then the record of the investigation is relegated to a database that is only accessible if a children’s aid society opens a new investigation about the same child or family. In that event, the fact that the previous investigation turned up nothing may persuade the children’s aid society that the family is fine - or a repeated similar reported concern may suggest that the previous investigation missed something.
As a child protection lawyer representing parents, John Schuman recommends that when a children’s aid society calls doing an investigation, parents should always thank the agency for being concerned about the child’s safety and wellbeing. If everyone is putting the child’s safety and wellbeing first, then there is nothing for anyone to worry about, the children’s aid society will go away, and, most importantly, the child will be safe.
For more information about children’s aid society investigations, child protection proceedings in family court and most other family law issues, get an immediate $9.99 e-book download of the Guide to the Basics of Ontario Family Law for Kindle, Kobo, or iPad/iPhone/Mac or as a $25.00 paperback version from Amazon.ca (and other retailers).
John Schuman practices child protection law and assists parents, grandparents, children and other family members in matters related to children’s aid societies. To contact him, call 416-446-5847, email him, or use the form below. You can also use the form below to leave comments on this page.
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Mediator, Workplace Investigator
Thanks for that John. It is so common in Australia for professionals to report to cover their own butts rather than looking at whether there is reasonable suspicion of serious harm - it distracts the Child Protection Agency frim managing serious complaints and risk of harm. I know someone who was reported because the childcare was concerned because the parent presented dishevelled...
Something seems amiss, here. While I'm unfamiliar with the "mandated reporting scheme" in Toronto, most such laws have, right after the provision requiring reporting, provisions providing for qualified or absolute immunity for making a mandated report. Not true in Toronto? Did someone not remind the judge?
Parenting Coordinator and Senior Research Associate at Griffor Legal, PC
Please tell me there's some detail, such as proof of malicious intent or purposeful harassment, or maybe the daycare's bill was unpaid! I am a mandated reporter, and this story makes me uneasy.