The Canadian Bar Association B.C. Branch website has a page entitled ‘Child Protection and Removal.’ Valuable advice is offered there to parents of removed children as well as to ordinary citizens with responsibility to report suspected abuse or neglect of children. These look like diametrically opposed interests but not from the perspective of the law.
You can of course read it in detail by going immediately to the site but I will highlight some of the offerings there to whet your appetite.
YOU SHOULD KNOW WHEN YOU NEED A LAWYER
This is not a marketing tool for lawyers but sound counsel to parents whose child has been removed by the Ministry of Children and Family Development. ASAP is the applicable acronym. Subscribe a lawyer as soon as possible. A lawyer is of value at any point within the child protection investigation and court hearing. Hesitance to contract a lawyer is often determined by financial resources and yet you are advise here that if you can’t afford a lawyer, the possibility of free legal aid is mentioned. LSS or Legal Services Society makes such provision. ). To find a legal aid location near you, go to the Legal Services Society website at www.legalaid.bc.ca and under “Legal aid,” click “Legal aid offices” (www.legalaid.bc.ca/legal_aid/legalAidOffices.asp). Or contact the LSS Call Centre at 604.408.2172 (Greater Vancouver) or 1.866.577.2525 (call no charge, elsewhere in BC).
YOU SHOULD KNOW THE ROLE OF THE MINISTRY
Of course, the parent is in this circumstance, that is, of having a child removed because a report has been generated about a child and it has come to the attention of the Ministry.
The fact is every citizen is under legal obligation to report to the Ministry a suspected abuse, neglect, or need of protection situation. To encourage such reports, callers are promised anonymity upon request. The Ministry is required to investigate every report in order to determine whether risk exists and to what response is appropriate. All of this is mandated by the provincial Child, Family and Community Services Act. The act also advocates that social workers shall help families to care safely for their child and offer services and resources.
When concern for the child’s safety exists then the Ministry acts. Hopefully when the risk is low, social workers will provide a ‘family development response’ and this can involve assessment of the family’s strengths and problem areas, time-limited and supportive services and assistance to a family and monitoring the child and family to ensure the child is safe.
YOU SHOULD KNOW WHAT YOUR RIGHTS ARE
“The social worker must make sure the parents know the details of the report. The parents may also be told that the children will be interviewed, however the parents might not be told about this interview beforehand if the social worker and supervisor believe this would put the child at risk. The parents have the right to explain their interpretation of the facts and to ask questions. They also have the right to have a lawyer or someone else with them at meetings with the social worker. And the family must be given as much information as possible about the progress of the investigation and available support services.”
The page contains other vital information under such headings as
What happens after a child protection investigation? When the children don’t need protection. When the children need protection. Removing the children from the home may also be considered. Where will removed children stay? If the children are removed, there will be a “presentation hearing.” What if a protection hearing is arranged? The protection hearing must begin within 45 days after the presentation hearing. Where can you get help or find more information?