Provincial Child Abuse Investigations
This manual section pertains to child abuse investigations conducted by the Director of Child and Family Services (Child Protection Branch). It explains the policies and procedures followed by the branch and the responsibilities of child and family services agencies and their mandating authorities in these situations.
Child and family services agencies are required under section 18.6 of The Child and Family Services Act to immediately report to Child Protection Branch alleged abuse by a person who provides work for or services to an agency or to a child care facility or other place where a child has been placed by the agency. The director must investigate the matter and take such further steps as required by the Act, prescribed by regulation, or as the director considers necessary.
Section 1 of the Act defines a child care facility as foster home, group home, treatment centre or any other place designated in the regulations as a child care facility. Section 2 of the Child Care Facilities (Other than Foster Homes) Licensing Regulation lists the facilities to which the regulation applies.
Mandatory Provincial Child Abuse Investigations
Child abuse investigations conducted by the Child Protection Branch under section 18.6 of The Child and Family Service Act are in addition to investigations conducted by agencies. Section 18.6 does not replace an agency’s duty under section 18.4 to conduct a child protection investigation and to intervene to protect a child. The intent of section 18.6 is to minimize any conflict of interest to agency persons conducting an investigation.
Provincial investigations include but are not limited to employees, board members and volunteers. Employees include regular field staff, supervisors, managers, homemakers, parent aides, child support workers, service-purchase staff, or any person that works for an agency or facility as defined in the Act.
While section 18.6 includes any place an agency places a child, the branch gives priority to situations considered to have a high conflict of interest or requiring a large-scale investigation due to multiple potential victims. For other persons such as a foster or place-of-safety parent.
While section 18.6 includes any place an agency places a child, the branch gives priority to situations considered to have a high conflict of interest or requiring a large-scale investigation due to multiple potential victims. For other persons such as a foster or place-of-safety parent, the branch may rely on a report from an investigating agency unless there is a perceived or real conflict of interest, or there are concerns about the way the investigation was handled. However, the branch investigates all cases involving alleged abuse by a foster or place-of-safety parent who is also an employee of an agency or child care facility. This policy is covered in more detail under Foster Homes and Family Residences in this section.
Discretionary provincial child abuse investigations are in addition to mandatory investigations referred to earlier in this section. The Director of Child and Family Services (Child Protection Branch) has discretionary powers under subsection 4(2) of The Child and Family Services Act to conduct enquiries and carry out investigations with respect to the welfare of any child dealt with under the Act.
At the request of a child and family services authority, the Child Protection Branch will investigate alleged abuse by a person who provides work for or services to an authority.
The branch has also agreed to investigate incidents of alleged abuse of a child (youth) while detained or in custody in a youth correctional facility. The branch may refer a case to an agency regarding child protection concerns in the youth’s family. When the youth is also a child in care, the branch will advise the placing or guardian agency, as the case may be, of the allegation and outcome of an investigation.
The branch is also available to provide case consultations and to assist agencies in challenging investigation such as cases involving third-party child sexual exploitation or sexual exploitation networks (see Section 1.3.5, Child Sexual Exploitation).
Section 18.6 was added to The Child and Family Services Act when agency jurisdiction was based on geographical areas. With the coming into force of The Child and Family Services Authorities Act, many agencies now have jurisdiction throughout the province.
Table 1 provides direction as to which agency is responsible for reporting the alleged abuse under section 18.6 to the Child Protection Branch.
Table 1: Reporting agency
The Child Protection Branch has established procedures and forms for reporting suspected child abuse that falls under section 18.6 of The Child and Family Services Act. They apply to child and family services agencies and to child care facilities other than foster homes. Reporting is mandatory for agencies under the Act and for facilities under section 34 of the Child Care Facilities (Other than Foster Homes) Licensing Regulation.
Agency reporting involves the following steps:
Child care facilities are required to report an incident involving suspected abuse of a resident to the Child Protection Branch and the child’s placing agency. They must provide preliminary information to a licensing specialist at the branch and the child’s case manager within one working day of receiving the information. They are also required to submit an incident report on the departmental incident reporting form to a licensing specialist within five working days of receiving the information of suspected abuse. A copy of the incident report is then given to a provincial investigation specialist.
As noted under Mandatory Provincial Child Abuse Investigations in this section, the Child Protection Branch generally relies on agencies to report the results of their investigations of alleged abuse of a child in a foster home or family residences used as a place of safety. The branch investigates all cases involving alleged abuse by a foster or place-of-safety home operated by an employee of an agency or child care facility.
Unless an alternative arrangement has been agreed to by the branch and the four authorities for a specific geographical area, the agency that has licensed a foster home or approved a family residence as a place of safety has the primary responsibility for:
When a perceived or actual conflict of interest cannot be effectively addressed, investigating agency must consider alternative ways to conduct the investigation. Options include requesting:
In responding to alleged child abuse in a foster home or family residence, intervening agencies have a dual responsibility to ensure the safety of all children in the home and to minimize the trauma for them and the foster or place-of-safety family. Intervention options include but are not limited to:
When a decision is made to remove a child from a foster home and the police request no discussion of the allegation take place until they interview an alleged offender, information shared with foster parents should be limited to a general statement that the agency believes the child to be in need of protection. This practice is consistent with the intent of section 51 of The Child and Family Services Act. This practice is also recommended for the removal of children from a place-of-safety home.
If a decision to remove a child or the interview process prevents the child form arriving home at the usual time, foster or place-of-safety parents should be informed the child will not be home prior to that time.
The provincial child investigation unit creates a child protection on the Child and Family Services Information System (CFSIS) for all investigations conducted by the unit (see Case Categories in Section 1.7.1, Service Records). The provincial case pertains to investigating whether a person has abused a child and is separate to a child protection case opened by the agency that licensed or approved the home (see Foster Homes and Family Residences in this section). In the event another agency investigates the alleged abuse for the licensing or approving agency, the investigating agency is attached to the child protection case as an auxiliary agency.
The above-noted policy safeguards confidentiality requirements and provides data regarding workload and case counts for the unit. Provincial cases are closed on completion of the investigation and any follow-up that is required.
As noted under Mandatory Provincial Child Abuse Investigations in this section, provincial investigations are in addition to agency investigations. An intervening agency must also open a child protection case using the provincial automated intake module explained in Section 1.1.1, Intake. The focus of the agency investigation is on child protection.
When an incident of alleged abuse pertains to a foster home or family residence (see Foster Homes and Family Residences in this section), the provincial unit will not open a child protection case unless it undertakes an investigation because the alleged abuser is also an employee of an agency or child care facility, or there are issues relating to conflict of interest that require provincial involvement.
The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) applies to personnel records of provincial government departments and to external agencies designated as government agencies in Schedule B of the Access and Privacy Regulation.
Agency and authority personnel records are generally subject to FIPPA. However, section 86.1 states that provisions in The Child and Family Services Act (CFSA) prevail in the event of a conflict between the two statutes. To avoid conflict between access provisions under Division 2 of FIPPA and confidentiality provisions under subsection 76(3) of The Child and Family Services Act (CFSA), information concerning a child protection investigation placed on a personnel file should be identified and some caution clearly noted to indicate the information is subject to CFSA confidentiality provisions.
In compliance with subsection 76(3) of The Child and Family Services Act and the Child Abuse Regulation, the provincial child abuse investigation unit (PCAI) limits the sharing of detailed information regarding a child abuse investigation to child and family services agencies and police units directly involved in a case. The branch may also share details with a child care facility involved such as group home or treatment centre when necessary for the protection of other residents in the facility.
Consistent with clauses 18.4(2) and (3) of the Act, the branch may report the conclusions of its investigation to other parties involved or may rely on the intervening agency to do so. As a matter of policy, PCAI sends a letter summarizing the findings and conclusions to the alleged abuser and, when applicable, to the person’s employer. For children not in care of an agency, PCAI may contact the child’s parents to explain the results.