What can CAS do if they think my child is being abused or neglected?

A (CAS) in Ontario has a legal duty to look into every report they get where it appears that a child is at risk of being harmed or is being harmed.

Harm includes situations where a child is being abused or neglected. The abuse can be physical, sexual, or emotional. Neglect is when a child's basic needs for things like food, shelter, sleep, or clothing are not being met.

For example, a person might report their concern about a child to CAS if they believe the child's parents are:

  • being violent to each other
  • hitting or tying up the child
  • not giving the child food
  • touching the child in a sexual way
  • leaving the child alone without the care they need
  • exposing the child to a dangerous situation or dangerous people

CAS usually looks into reports about children who are under the age of 18.

Depending on what they find out, CAS can:

  1. close their file
  2. look more closely into your child's situation and take other steps to protect your child from harm. This can include things like asking you to sign an agreement to work with CAS, taking your child away, or taking you to court
  3. offer support services to help your family, like counselling and therapy

There are over 40 Children’s Aid Societies covering all of Ontario.

Some places have more than one CAS. In these places, the family's Indigenous heritage or faith determines which CAS gets involved.

For example, in Toronto, there are 4 agencies: Children's Aid Society of Toronto, Catholic Children's Aid Society of Toronto, Jewish Family and Child, and Native Child and Family Services of Toronto.

Talk to a lawyer

If CAS contacts you because they think that your child might be at risk of harm, you should talk to a lawyer who has worked on child protection cases.

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.

In some situations, a parent has the right to a lawyer to make sure that their court case with CAS is fair. In those situations, a court can order the government to pay for that parent's lawyer through Legal Aid Ontario. This doesn't happen in most cases.

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