If you need to contact a child protection agency because you have concerns for your children’s safety when they are with their father, there are a few things you will want to consider:
You can make a report to your local agency 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
When you make this call, you will speak with an intake worker, who will write down your report and assess whether a worker will be assigned to investigate.
If an investigating worker is assigned to your case, they will likely follow up within 12 hours to seven days. The worker generally has 30 days to investigate and decide whether or not the concerns are verified. The worker will then either close the file or transfer it to ongoing child protection services.
For more information on this process please visit oacas.org.
It is important to keep a record of all interactions with helping professionals, including child protection workers.
If possible, prepare notes before you make the call. Outline your current concerns, including incidents, dates, witnesses and any evidence you are aware of. If a women’s legal advocate is available when you are making the call, they can support you in this process. Document the date and time of your call as well as the name of the worker you spoke with.
3. Making the call
Contact your local child protection agency. The worker will ask for details about the situation and record names as well as personal information for all who are involved. If your address and/or phone number is to be kept from your ex-partner for safety reasons, make sure that the worker knows this.
Tell the child protection worker about any relevant history of violence or abuse toward you that the children have witnessed or are aware of. Think about how your ex-partner may react to the report being made, and share this with the worker as well. (For example: Is your ex-partner very charming? Will he deny everything? Will he blame the children or have them lie for him? Will there be increased safety risks for you and the children?)
Tell the worker about the impact the abuse and/or neglect has had on the children. Let them know what you have done to keep your children safe and what kind of support you need from them.
Remember to ask the child protection worker what the follow-up will be and an approximate timeline. Also ask if they have any instructions for you prior to the assigned worker contacting you.
4. Safety plan
Re-evaluate your safety plan as well as those of your children, and make changes if needed. If you have safety concerns, ask that your assigned worker contact you before as well as after they speak with your ex-partner so you can adjust your safety plan as necessary.
5. Be prepared
Many child protection workers and agencies do not want to get involved in what they see as custody and access disputes between parents. Even if you report serious concerns to the worker, they may take the position that this is a family law matter and so outside their mandate.
Child protection workers are trained to have an understanding of violence against women and the impact on children. However, if you feel that your worker is not holding the abusive person accountable or is viewing your actions as vindictive rather than protective, it is important to seek out support as soon as possible.
Consider working with a women’s legal advocate to increase the chances that your concerns are taken seriously. In many communities, there are protocols between Children’s Aid Societies and violence against women agencies that can help to guide this process.