Child Protection and the Ministry
I represent parents, grandparents, and/or other family members who are involved in court proceedings against the Ministry for Children and Family Development, or who are involved in negotiations with the Ministry outside of court. This is a unique subset of family law commonly known as "child protection" or "child apprehension". I provide legal representation in all aspects of a child apprehension proceeding, including:
- Removals, apprehensions and presentation hearings;
- Supervision Orders;
- Temporary Custody Applications;
- Continuing Custody Applications;
- Mediation and Collaborative Meetings;
- Family Group Conferences and Family Case Planning Conferences;
- Restraining Orders;
- Protective Intervention Orders;
- Transfer of Custody under sections 54.1 and 54.01; and
- Related Family Law Proceedings.
The Ministry of Children and Family Development is the government authority tasked with child protection, and operates primarily subject to the jurisdiction of the Provincial Court. The law of child protection is codified in the Child, Family and Community Service Act (CFCSA).
All child protection cases start with a report from a community member that a child is at risk. The person making the report can be your neighbour, your child’s teacher, or even your doctor. Every person has a legal duty to report a child in need of protection, and once a report is made to the Ministry, the Ministry has a legal obligation to investigate the report and intervene if necessary.
The most common reports that are made to the Ministry are drug abuse by a parent, physical abuse of a child by a parent, neglect of a child by a parent, and spousal violence.
If a protection report has been made concerning your child, you will be contacted by a social worker employed by the Ministry who will conduct an investigation into your family life. In serious cases, the social worker may be accompanied to your home by the police for the purpose of removing your child from your care.
The Ministry doesn’t automatically go to court or remove children as part of every investigation. In some cases, a simple interview with the parent can be enough to end the investigation. In other cases, the social worker may conduct a more thorough investigation and make recommendations to you about how risks can be managed without further Ministry intervention.
In some cases, a Ministry social worker will tell you that it is better for you to agree to his/her demands without a court application. These demands must be approached with caution, as the social workers have no authority except as granted in law.
In the most serious of cases, the Ministry can apply for a continuing custody order, which results in a long term transfer of custody to the Ministry, usually until the child turns 18 or is adopted. In other cases, permanent custody of a child may be transferred pursuant to sections 54.1 or 54.01 of the CFCSA.
Parents who are involved in a child protection proceeding experience a wide range of devastating emotions. The process can be very lengthy, and feels unfair and intrusive.
When a parent comes to me for help in a child protection case, I assist by taking a critical view of the evidence, and advise my clients based on my experience in previous cases. I keep my clients educated throughout the process, and provide ongoing feedback and support. I also assist my clients by referring them to the appropriate community supports, such as counselling and addiction services.
The Ministry doesn't always make the right decision, and it is important for parents to protect their children's rights. A consultation with a lawyer is imperative whenever a social worker contacts you about your family.
If your child has just been removed from your care by the Ministry, or if you need assistance with an ongoing case, please contact me for a free consultation. Don’t hesitate to call; in many cases a free telephone consultation is all that is required.