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ABUSE/NEGLECT

Defining Abuse and Neglect

Child abuse is the physical or psychological mistreatment of a child by an adult (this can be biological or adoptive parents, step-parents, guardians, other any other adults). This includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional maltreatment, and exposure to domestic violence.

Neglect refers to situations where a child’s caregiver fails to provide adequate clothing, food or shelter. Neglect can also apply to the abandonment of a child or an adult not providing basic care such as medical or dental care.

Any of these will be considered neglect whether it is a deliberate action or due to other circumstances. 1

abuse neglect 150sq

Common Signs of Abuse/Neglect

abuse neglect 150sq

Obvious Signs:

  • Bruises
  • Scratches
  • Burns
  • Any other physical signs that may indicate abuse and should be investigated

Less Obvious Signs:

  • Child who appears withdrawn or emotionally unstable

In any cases of suspicion where there is a possibility of child abuse or neglect, an investigation should occur. Below are some further details that should be considered.

Signs the Child May Have:

  • Unexplained or non-accidental marks (such as bruises, welts, cuts or burns)
  • Inappropriate clothing or clothing that inadequately protects them from the weather
  • Consistently is not clean, is unkempt, or “fails to thrive’’ (this term is used for babies to describe situations such as losing weight, or not reaching developmental milestones like sitting up, walking, and talking at the usual age)
  • Shows sudden changes in behaviour such as frequent absences from school
  • Tells someone information that indicates abuse
  • Has sexual knowledge or experience that goes beyond his or her age or stage of development
  • Has not received help for physical or medical problems that have been brought to the parents’ attention
  • Is always watchful, extremely compliant, passive or withdrawn
  • Comes to places early, stays late, does not want to go home or has a consistent lack of supervision.

Signs the Caregiver* May Have:

* “Caregiver” can refer to a birth parent, foster parent, or kin parent.

  • Shows a lack of concern for the child or takes a dismissive approach to the child’s problems
  • Uses, or asks caretakers to use, harsh punishment if the child misbehaves
  • Sees the child as worthless, entirely bad, or burdensome
  • Has inappropriate expectations in relation to the developmental stage of the child
  • Looks primarily to the child for care, attention, and satisfaction of emotional needs

For more information on the signs of child maltreatment, visit the National Clearinghouse on Family Violence, operated by the Public Health Agency of Canada. The telephone number is 1-800-267-1291 or (613) 957-2938.

You can also call Kid’s Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868.

A local child welfare agency is also a good information source. Click here to find the local child welfare agency in your province or territory.  2

What To Do When You Suspect a Child/Youth is Being Abused/Neglected?

Fawziyah Chandsa abuse neglect2

Anyone (including an individual working with children) in Ontario who suspects a child is in need of protection, is required by the law to immediately report it to a children’s aid society. Or, if you believe it is urgent and/or cannot reach the children’s aid society, call your local police.

This is an ongoing duty where if there are further incidents or information, it should also be reported.

This duty to report cannot be passed to another person.

It is also important to note that while you can report it, it is not mandatory to report for children are 16 or 17.  3, 4

Duty to report child in need of protection: 

If a person, including a person who performs professional or official duties with respect to children, has reasonable grounds to suspect one of the following, the person shall immediately report the suspicion and the information:

  1. The child has suffered physical harm inflicted by the person having charge of the child or caused by or resulting from that person’s,
    • failure to adequately care for, provide for, supervise or protect the child, or
    • pattern of neglect in caring for, providing for, supervising or protecting the child.
  2. There is a risk that the child is likely to suffer physical harm inflicted by the person having charge of the child or caused by or resulting from that person’s,
    • failure to adequately care for, provide for, supervise or protect the child, or
    • pattern of neglect in caring for, providing for, supervising or protecting the child.
  1. The child has been sexually abused or sexually exploited by the person having charge of the child or by another person where the person having charge of the child knows or should know of the possibility of sexual abuse or sexual exploitation and fails to protect the child.
  1. There is a risk that the child is likely to be sexually abused or sexually exploited as described in number 3.
    • The child has been sexually exploited as a result of being subjected to child sex trafficking.
    • There is a risk that the child is likely to be sexually exploited as a result of being subjected to child sex trafficking.
  1. The child requires treatment to cure, prevent or alleviate physical harm or suffering and the child’s parent or the person having charge of the child does not provide the treatment or access to the treatment, or, where the child is incapable of consenting to the treatment under the Health Care Consent Act, 1996, refuses or is unavailable or unable to consent to, the treatment on the child’s behalf.
  1. The child has suffered emotional harm, demonstrated by serious
    • anxiety
    • depression
    • withdrawal
    • self-destructive or aggressive behaviour
    • delayed development

and there are reasonable grounds to believe that the emotional harm suffered by the child results from the actions, failure to act or pattern of neglect on the part of the child’s parent or the person having charge of the child.

  1. The child has suffered emotional harm of the kind described above (in number 6) and the child’s parent or the person having charge of the child does not provide services or treatment or access to services or treatment, or, where the child is incapable of consenting to treatment under the Health Care Consent Act, 1996, refuses or is unavailable or unable to consent to, treatment to remedy or alleviate the harm.
  1. There is a risk that the child is likely to suffer emotional harm of the kind described above (in number 6) resulting from the actions, failure to act or pattern of neglect on the part of the child’s parent or the person having charge of the child.
  1. There is a risk that the child is likely to suffer emotional harm of the kind described above (in number 6) and the child’s parent or the person having charge of the child does not provide services or treatment or access to services or treatment, or, where the child is incapable of consenting to treatment under the Health Care Consent Act, 1996, refuses or is unavailable or unable to consent to, treatment to prevent the harm.
  1. The child suffers from a mental, emotional or developmental condition that, if not remedied, could seriously impair the child’s development and the child’s parent or the person having charge of the child does not provide the treatment or access to the treatment, or where the child is incapable of consenting to the treatment under the Health Care Consent Act, 1996, refuses or is unavailable or unable to consent to, treatment to remedy or alleviate the condition.
  1. The child’s parent has died or is unavailable to exercise the rights of custody over the child and has not made adequate provision for the child’s care and custody, or the child is in a residential placement and the parent refuses or is unable or unwilling to resume the child’s care and custody.
  1. The child is younger than 12 and has killed or seriously injured another person or caused serious damage to another person’s property, services or treatment are necessary to prevent a recurrence and the child’s parent or the person having charge of the child does not provide services or treatment or access to services or treatment, or, where the child is incapable of consenting to treatment under the Health Care Consent Act, 1996, refuses or is unavailable or unable to consent to treatment.
  1. The child is younger than 12 and has on more than one occasion injured another person or caused loss or damage to another person’s property, with the encouragement of the person having charge of the child or because of that person’s failure or inability to supervise the child adequately. ” 5