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What if CAS takes my child?
If a Children's Aid Society (CAS) thinks that there is a serious or immediate risk of harm to your child, they may take them from your home. They can't take your child if they are 16 or 17 years old unless your child agrees to leave your home. But they can take your child if they are younger than 16, even if they don't agree.
CAS can take your child if they think that:
- there are good reasons to believe your child is at risk of harm, and
- your child can't be protected from that harm in any other way.
For example, your child might be at risk of harm from your partner who has hit and hurt your child before. CAS can take your child if they think your partner might hurt your child again and your child can't be protected in any other way.
CAS may choose not to take your child if, for example, your partner agrees not to hurt them again and moves out of the home while doing a parenting course. Or, CAS might not take your child if CAS thinks that you can protect your child from being hit in the future.
Parents can choose to work with CAS to keep their child in their home. For example, they can sign an agreement to get counselling or other services from CAS.
If CAS takes your child, it means that the worker thinks your child won't be safe in your care even if you agree to work with CAS.
If your child is taken, CAS takes them to a place of safety. This is a place where they believe your child is no longer at risk of harm. For example, this could be a foster home or hospital.
You and CAS may agree to have your child cared for by a relative, friend, or member of your community. Before placing your child there, CAS has to make sure that the place you suggest is safe for your child. This involves a number of steps, like getting a police check and checking CAS records.
If CAS decides that the place you suggest is safe for your child before they take them, they may agree to your child going there with your permission.
Talk to a lawyer
If CAS takes your child, talk to a lawyer who has worked on child protection cases right away. You should do this even if CAS takes your child to a relative or friend's home. A lawyer can give you advice on what happens and can help you through the process.
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 part of your case.
If you can't afford to hire a lawyer, you might be able to find legal help in other places.