In Nova Scotia, there is a law called the Children and Family Services Act that is in place to protect children if they are being abused or neglected, or are at serious risk of being abused or neglected. This law requires people who have information to believe that a child is at risk of harm or is being harmed to report that to a local child protection agency. There are agencies located throughout Nova Scotia. A child protection agency is required to review the report and decide whether an investigation needs to take place. A social worker will make decisions about what to do next and will do any investigations that are needed. The police and other professionals may also be involved to help. Parents and other people who know what happened may be interviewed.
Child protection agencies sometimes provide help, like counseling or special services, to families who need it if the parents ask for help or agree to accept this help. At other times, the Agency will need to file a special ‘protection’ application with the court to ask a judge to decide whether there are reasonable grounds to believe the child is at risk. If there are reasonable grounds, then the case will go through a process where certain decisions about the children will have to be made at certain times set out in the law. The judge will need to decide what is best for the children, where they will live if their parents are not able to care for them safely, and what special services may be needed to keep the children safe or to educate the parents on how to look after their children properly.
Children may be placed in care permanently or adopted as a result of a court application, so these are very serious matters. Anyone who has a child protection case before the court should have legal advice and representation. Child protection law is complicated and there are big risks in not being represented by a lawyer in a proceeding.
PLEASE NOTE: These materials have been updated to reflect changes to the provincial Children and Family Services Act that went into effect on March 1, 2017. Individuals involved in child protection matters before the Courts should be aware that the ages and timeframes noted here have changed.
You are advised to consult with a lawyer if you have any questions.
For more information about child protection, click here.
The Court offers a video which is intended to help you understand what happens when the Child Protection Agency becomes involved in your family life. The video and the booklet that comes with it will answer some of your questions.What has happened? Where are your children? When can you see them? What can you do to make sure your family stays together? If your children have been taken into care, what do you need to do to have them returned to you?
To view the video in English, click here.
To view the video in Mi'kmaq, click here.
The video was produced with the collaboration of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court Family Division, Executive Office of the Nova Scotia Judiciary, Nova Scotia Legal Aid, Nova Scotia Department of Community Services, Nova Scotia Department of Justice, with funding from The Law Foundation of Ontario. While financially supported by The Law Foundation of Ontario, the views expressed in this video production do not necessarily reflect the views of The Foundation.
If you suspect that a child is being abused or neglected or are a witness to child abuse, please contact the child welfare agency in the area where the child lives. It is best if you contact the agency by telephone or in person.
Here are the telephone numbers to reach a child protection worker:
Between 8:30 am -4:30 pm on weekdays: call 1-877-424-1177 if you believe a child is in immediate danger of abuse
Between 4:30 pm to 8:30 am on weekdays and on weekends or on holidays: call 1-866-922-2434 if you believe a child is in immediate danger of abuse
To find the address for a child welfare agency in your area, please contact the Agency or District Office of the Department of Community Services nearest you for more information. Click here for a list of the agencies in Nova Scotia.