Duty to report: what if I learn a child has been sexually assaulted?

In Ontario, under Section 72 of the Child and Family Services Act (CFSA), every person who has reasonable grounds to suspect that a child is, or may be, in need of protection must promptly report the suspicion and the information upon which it is based to a Children’s Aid Society(CAS). A child is defined as someone under the age of 16 years old.

The duty to report is particularly emphasized for those who perform professional or official duties with respect to children, such as teachers, child care workers, lawyers, police, health care practitioners. Every professional whose work brings them in contact with children and families has the duty to report their concerns directly, and each time they have a concern, regardless if they have reported before, or if they believe the CAS are aware of the concerns (an ongoing duty).[See: Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies – Frequently Asked Questions]  

On January 1, 2018 legislative amendments to the CFSA that raised the age of protection to 18 years old were proclaimed into force. (CFSA, 2018)[See: Child and Family Services Act]  A person may make a report where they have a reasonable suspicion that a youth age 16 or 17 is or may be in need of protection. The legislated duty to report will continue to apply in respect of children under 16. A professional or member of the public who is concerned that a 16-or 17-year old is or may be in need of protection may make a report to a society and the society is required to assess the reported information.

The amendments to the Child and Family Services Act that raise the age of protection take into consideration that a different approach is needed for 16- and 17-year olds that will protect them and encourage their voluntary participation in service.

When a society receives a report, the Ontario Child Protection Standards (2016) will guide child protection workers at each phase of service delivery and is the mandatory framework for service to youth and families. The Ontario Child Welfare Eligibility Spectrum (2016)[See: more information about the Ontario Child Welfare Eligibility Spectrum (2016)] will be applied to determine the appropriate response and make decisions on the referral disposition and response time (in the case of an investigation).

Joint Investigation

If the information received by a CAS alleges that a criminal offence has been perpetrated against a child, the child protection worker will immediately inform the police, and will conduct a joint investigation with police, according to the established protocols for investigation. Every CAS will have protocols with the society’s local Police Departments related to the investigation of allegations that a criminal act has been perpetrated against a child.[ See Ministry of Children and Youth Services: Standard 2 Planning and Conducting a Child Protection Investigation]

See: Ministry of Children and Youth Services: Reporting child abuse and neglect

Further Reading & Resources