Daycare Provider Sued for Reporting Child Abuse to Children’s Aid Society
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.