The Child and Youth Family Services Act (CYFSA) is the Ontario law dealing with child protection. Its purpose is to promote the best interests, protection and well-being of children.
The CYFSA authorizes child protection authorities to:
- Investigate allegations or evidence that a child may be in need of protection
- Protect, care for and supervise such children
- Provide services to families.
A child is in need of protection if:
- The child has suffered physical, sexual or emotional harm, through actions or neglect.
- There is the risk of any such harm.
A child being exposed to their mother being abused is one risk factor, among others, in determining whether a child may be in need of protection.
Child protection authorities are required to intervene with a family in as minimally intrusive a manner as possible, bearing in mind the best interests of the children.
Removing a child from their parent(s) is a last resort that would only occur if no other strategy was available.
Anyone who has “reasonable grounds to suspect a child may be in need of protection” is required to report this to the appropriate child protection agency.
Where a woman is taking or has taken steps to protect the children from future exposure to woman abuse, reporting to child protection authorities may not be required. This could include a woman who:
- Has come to a shelter with her children to live
- Is taking steps to find housing
- Has reported the abuse to the police
- Has hired a family law lawyer
Anyone involved in a child protection court proceeding should have a lawyer. Legal aid is available in child protection cases to those who qualify financially. Duty counsel is available to assist women who do not have a lawyer.
For more information, see the child protection section.