How to get help if someone reports you to the ministry
Your rights and responsibilities
To prepare yourself for dealing with the Ministry of Children and Family Development, it's important to know:
All children deserve to be happy, healthy, and protected from harm. In addition, specific laws protect the rights of children.
BC Child Protection Law
The main BC law protecting children (everyone under 19 years old) is the Child, Family and Community Service Act (CFCSA). This law says that parents or anyone responsible for taking care of a child must make sure that the child:
- is safe;
- has enough food to eat each day;
- has clothing, shelter, and health care;
- isn't abandoned or neglected;
- is protected from physical abuse and emotional harm;
- is protected from emotional harm resulting from a parent’s conduct;
- is protected from emtional harm resulting from living in a situation where the child witnesses domestic violence by or against someone they live with; and
- isn't sexually abused or exploited.
Anyone who believes that a child has been or is likely to be abused or neglected must report this to the Ministry of Children and Family Development. The exception to this requirement is in the case of a client-solicitor (lawyer) relationship.
To report child abuse
Call one of the following:
- Help Line for Children: 310-1234 (anywhere in BC)
- Service BC. Ask to be connected to the ministry office closest to you.
604-660-2421 (Greater Vancouver)
1-800-663-7867 (call no charge elsewhere in BC)
- Your local ministry office listed in the blue pages of your phone book under "British Columbia — Children & Family Development — Ministry of"
Child protection workers are legally required to follow up on all reports of neglect or abuse. They must keep the name of anyone who makes a report confidential.
Convention on the Rights of the Child
Canada has signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which recognizes that children also have the right to the following:
- To go to school
- To live with their families in a "safe and nurturing environment"
- To have a say in decisions about them
- To stay connected with relatives
- To participate in their parents' culture
Parents are responsible for the following:
- To keep their children safe, healthy, and happy
- To safeguard their children from injuries, illness, and other harm
- To get proper medical and dental attention for their children as soon as needed
- To send their children to school and make sure they get all the help they need to succeed there
- To do their best to provide their children with healthy food, clothing for all kinds of weather, friends to play with, and a happy home
- To teach their children how to keep themselves safe
- To seek help for themselves or their children when needed
Under BC law, parents are also responsible for protecting their children from neglect; emotional, physical, and sexual abuse; or from the emotional harm of witnessing domestic violence by or against someone they live with.
The BC Handbook for Action on Child Abuse and Neglect includes the following definitions of neglect and abuse:
Child neglect means not doing enough to keep your child safe and healthy. It can include one or more of the following:
- The failure to provide adequate food and shelter
- The failure to provide basic health care
- Inadequate supervision or child care
- Inadequate protection from physical risks or danger
The government recognizes, however, that parents who face financial problems or other problems beyond their control may have difficulty providing adequately for their children.
Emotional abuse is the most difficult type of abuse to define and recognize. It can include one or more of the following:
- Constant blaming
- Physical or emotional rejection
- Verbal attacks, threats, insults, humiliation, and name-calling
Constant emotional abuse can lead to severe emotional damage. Children who have been emotionally abused may demonstrate extreme anxiety, depression, withdrawal, or self-destructive and aggressive behaviour.
Physical abuse is the physical harming of a child by an adult or older child. It includes the use of unreasonable force to discipline children or to prevent children from harming themselves or others. The following are some examples of injuries that may result from physical abuse:
- Minor bruising, burns, welts, or bite marks
- Serious burns, cuts, or abrasions
- Broken bones or skull fractures
In extreme cases, physical abuse can lead to the death of a child.
Sexual abuse is any behaviour of a sexual nature toward a child by an adult or an older or stronger child. It can include one or more of the following:
- Touching or an invitation to touch for sexual purposes or intercourse (vaginal or anal)
- Obscene gestures, obscene communication, or stalking
- Sexual references to the child's body or behaviour in words or gestures
- Requests that the child expose his or her body for sexual purposes
- The deliberate exposure of the child to sexual activity or material
Sexual exploitation includes permitting, encouraging, or requiring a child to engage in any of the following:
- Behaviour of a sexual nature for the stimulation, gratification, profit, or self-interest of someone in a position of trust or authority, or someone upon whom the child depends
- The making of pornographic material
Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects the rights of parents. If the ministry investigates a complaint against a parent, the parent has the right to the following:
- Legal information and representation
- Understand the legal and court process
- Know about all options and the consequences of any decisions or actions
- Due process (regular and fair legal proceedings that follow certain rules and principles)
- Make a complaint about unfair treatment
Parents are to some extent protected under the provincial Child, Family and Community Service Act. BC courts must apply the legislation's guiding principles and service delivery principles to ensure parents (and children) receive proper treatment from social workers.
Important: If the ministry takes your child away or threatens to take your child away, you have the right to get a lawyer. If you meet the financial guidelines and your case is covered, legal aid can help you.
If you face special circumstances
- My partner is violent
- I'm Aboriginal (see Child protection and the Aboriginal community)
- I come from another country
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