1. 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.

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2. 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 results 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.

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3. 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 only, 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.

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4. 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.

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5. Who do I call?

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 and 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 and 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.  For a list of the agencies in Nova Scotia, click here.

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6. 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 (look into) reports of child abuse and neglect

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7. What happens if child protection becomes involved with my family?

Child protection may ask you to accept services so that you can receive the help and support you 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, you may need to think about placing your children in ‘voluntary care.’ This is when child protection services finds a foster placement for your children while you receive the help and support you need. You may have friends or family who can 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 your care, or require you to be supervised by them. In these cases, the agency must make a court application.

For more information, visit our child protection section.

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8. How do I know what kinds of discipline are ok?

It is sometimes hard for parents or others to know how to deal with children when they misbehave. All children need to have a parent or other adult guide them on how to behave. If you are having trouble, you may want to get support from someone, such as a doctor, or a parent resource centre. They may be able to give you advice, or you may be able to take a course to help you.

Please click here for information about discipline.

There are many family/parent resource centres in Nova Scotia. You can find a detailed listing here.

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