You must report child abuse and neglect

Everyone in Ontario, including members of the public and professionals who work closely with children, is required by law to report suspected child abuse or neglect.

If you have reasonable grounds to suspect that a child is, or may be in need of protection, you must immediately report the suspicion and the information on which it is based directly to a children’s aid society. If you think the matter is urgent and you cannot reach the children’s aid society, call your local police.

We all share a responsibility to protect children from harm. This includes situations where children may be at risk, suffer abuse and/or neglect in their own homes. The Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017 (CYFSA) provides protection for these children.

The Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect: It’s Your Duty brochure (PDF) explains the duty to report and provides answers to common questions about your responsibility to report. It does not provide legal advice.

Contact a lawyer or a children’s aid society if you have questions about a specific situation.

Types of abuse

Child abuse can be of different forms, including:

  • physical abuse
  • sexual abuse
  • emotional abuse
  • neglect

Learn how to recognize signs of child abuse and neglect.

Report a concern to a children’s aid society

Children’s aid societies have the exclusive mandate to investigate allegations of child abuse or neglect and to deliver child protection services.

Anyone who has a reasonable suspicion that a child is or may be in need of protection must immediately contact the society in the jurisdiction where the child lives or their local society.

After you submit a report

When a society receives a report that a child is or may be in need of protection, a society worker will assess the risk and urgency of the situation based on the Ontario Child Welfare Eligibility Spectrum. The society worker will determine whether an investigation is needed by considering all relevant information, including other available information about the child’s vulnerability, safety threats, risks and patterns of previous child involvement with the society.

A child protection investigation will take place where there are reasonable and probable grounds that a child may be in need of protection. If a society assesses that an investigation is required, the society worker will take steps to ensure the child’s safety, while being as family-centered and strengths-based as possible.

Your duty to report overrides professional confidentiality

A professional must report that a child is, or may be, in need of protection even when the information is otherwise confidential or privileged. The only exception is the privilege that exists between a lawyer and the lawyer’s client.

This duty overrides any other provincial statutes, including the Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004, and specifically overrides any provisions that would otherwise prohibit someone from making a disclosure.

You have protection from liability

No action for making the report will be instituted against a person who makes a report unless the person who submitted the report acts:

  • maliciously
  • without reasonable grounds for the suspicion