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Can I agree to get help from CAS?
If a family needs help, a Children's Aid Society (CAS) may be able to support a child and their family.
This can happen when parents or a child contacts CAS for help. Or it can happen after someone has told CAS they're worried about a child's care or safety.
After meeting with a CAS worker, you can decide if you would like to work with CAS. If you do, you can sign an agreement with CAS.
There are different types of agreements you can make:
- a voluntary services agreement, which is also called a plan of service
- a temporary care agreement
- an alternative dispute resolution agreement
- a customary care agreement, if your child is First Nations, Inuk, or Métis
You don't have to sign an agreement with CAS. But if you don't, CAS may ask the court for a court order that says you must do what CAS is asking.
When you're deciding whether to sign an agreement with CAS, ask what happens if you don't sign it.
Also, think carefully about whether you can do what the agreement says. If you don't, CAS might bring a court case and say that you can't cooperate because you didn't follow the agreement.
If you're trying to agree on things with CAS without going to court, think about using mediation or another type of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). CAS may also suggest this.
If your income is low enough, Legal Aid Ontario may pay for your ADR process.
Talk to a lawyer
It's a good idea to get legal advice before you sign any agreement to work with CAS.
You should talk to a lawyer with experience in child protection cases. They can help you understand what it means to agree to services, or for your child to be in the temporary care and custody of CAS.
A lawyer can also help you work out your agreement with CAS. For example, your agreement may say that you agree to go to counselling.
A lawyer can also make sure the agreement works for your family. For example, that it:
- deals with what CAS is concerned about
- is specific so that you understand what you have to do
Your agreement can be used as evidence in the future if CAS later starts a court case related to your child.
Legal Aid Certificates
You can apply for a legal aid certificate to get Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) to pay for your lawyer. Your income must be low enough for you to qualify.
If you can't afford to hire a lawyer for your whole case, some lawyers offer "unbundled services" or "limited scope retainer" services. This means you pay them to help you with only certain things.
If you can't afford to hire a lawyer, you might be able to find legal help in other places.