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 often 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 ‘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.
When a child is not able to be safely cared for by their parents they may be placed in care permanently or adopted as a result of a court application. Anyone who has a child protection case before the court should have legal advice and representation. Child protection law is complicated and there are serious risks in not being represented by a lawyer in a proceeding.
In addition to the Children and Family Services Act, when child protection services are being provided to Indigenous children and families, the federal legislation, An Act Respecting First Nations, Inuit, and Metis Children, Youth and Families will apply and supersedes provincial legislation. This will ensure that specific cultural needs will be considered.
If you suspect that a child is being abused or neglected or is 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, if you believe a child is in immediate danger of abuse:
Between 8:30 am - 4:30 pm on weekdays: call 1-877-424-1177
Between 4:30 pm - 8:30 am on weekdays and on weekends or holidays: call 1-866-922-2434
To find the contact information for a child welfare agency in your area, click here.