Child abuse / child protection
Sometimes, children may be placed in the care of their grandparents, or other family members, because child protection services have become involved with the family. Child protection services may become involved with a family because they have reason to believe that the children are being harmed or neglected, or there is a substantial risk of them being harmed or neglected.
What is child abuse?
Child abuse is a term that describes behaviour that results in significant negative emotional or physical consequences for a child. The term may be defined in laws that deal with child abuse, such as the Children and Family Services Act that deals with protecting children from abuse and harm in Nova Scotia.
Are there different kinds of child abuse?
Yes. Child abuse may take many forms. It may include things like:
physical abuse: the intentional use of force on any part of a child's body that can result in injury
emotional abuse: anything that causes serious mental or emotional harm to a child, which the parent does not attempt to prevent or address
sexual abuse: the improper exposure of a child to sexual contact, activity or behaviour
neglect: any lack of care that may cause significant harm to a child's development or endangers the child in any way.
To learn more about child abuse or neglect, click here.
What do I do if I suspect child abuse / neglect?
Everyone has the duty to immediately report abuse or neglect to a child welfare agency (child protection services), even if it is a suspicion or if the information is confidential. Reports may be made anonymously. Once a report is made, child protection staff will look at the information received to decide whether they need to investigate more. Child welfare authorities will decide what other action they may need to take.
What if I am witnessing child abuse?
If you see a crime in progress, call 911. You also have a duty to report the abuse right away to a child welfare agency.
Who do I call?
If you suspect that a child is being abused or neglected or are a witness to child abuse, you must 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.
If you believe a child is in immediate danger of abuse, here are the telephone numbers to reach a child protection worker:
Between 8:30 am to 4:30 pm on weekdays: call 1-877-424-1177;
Between 4:30 pm to 8:30 am on weekdays and on weekends or on holidays: call 1-866-922-2434.
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. Here is a list of the agencies in Nova Scotia.
What does child protection services do?
Child protection services are about protecting children under 16 from abuse and/or neglect while making every effort to keep families together. Under the Children and Family Services Act, child protection workers and certain other social workers in child welfare agencies are required to investigate reports of child abuse and neglect.
What happens if child protection becomes involved with my grandchildren and their family?
Child protection may ask the parent(s) to accept services so that they can receive the help and support they need to parent. These are called ‘voluntary services.’ There may be friends or family members who can help in these situations too.
If the situation is serious, the parent(s) may need to think about placing the children in ‘voluntary care.’ This is when the child protection services give a foster placement for the children while the parent(s) receive the help and support they need. Friends or family members may be able to help by caring for the children in their home, with the agreement of the child protection agency.
If the situation is serious and the children are being harmed or are at serious risk of harm, then the child protection agency may remove the children from their parent(s)’ care, or require that the parents be supervised by them. In these cases, the agency must make a court application.
For more information, go to Child Protection.
If my grandchildren are removed from their parent(s)’ home, do they automatically get placed with me?
Not necessarily. If the child has been placed in the voluntary care of a child protection agency, then the agency will usually try to consider a placement that allows a child to maintain contact with the child’s relatives and friends, and maintains the child’s cultural and racial heritage. The agency must always be sure that the placement is in the child’s best interests.
If a child has been taken into care, then it is also possible for grandparents, or others, to be a placement for children. The judge has to be sure that this arrangement is in the child’s best interests. The court needs to consider whether it is possible to place a child in the care of a relative, neighbour, or other member of the child’s community, or an extended family member, whenever the judge looks at removing the child temporarily or permanently from their parents.
Grandparents may be able to put forward a plan of care when a temporary or permanent care decision needs to be made.
Grandparents should have legal advice and representation, if possible, when putting forward a request to have grandchildren placed in their care as these matters are complicated. There are different ways in which grandparents can put forward their request to be a part of child protection proceedings. For example, in some situations, grandparents can apply for ‘third party status.’ If third party status is granted, then the grandparents have permission to take part in the child protection case at court, and would be able to have a say in court.