Orientation Topics

Example Situations and Responsibilities

The following table provides some examples of situations you may come across and indicates who is primarily responsible for responding when a child may be at risk. Child welfare workers can assist in cases where they do not have the lead responsibility, as part of a collaborative response. However, when they do not have the lead role, other authorities should be involved. Protocols can be helpful in these situations. If you are not sure what to do, call a child welfare worker to discuss the situation.

A printable pdf version of the following table.

Example of Situation Who is Primarily Responsible
Minor altercation or aggression between children: e.g., on a playground, in a child care setting or youth custody centre Conflicts between children where there is no significant power imbalance are part of normal childhood behaviour and typically do not involve abuse or neglect. The head of the agency or organization that has jurisdiction where the situation occurred may need to be informed according to local protocols or guidelines.
Sexual play or exploration between children of similar ages Sexual play between children where there is no significant power imbalance typically does not involve abuse or neglect.If the situation occurred in a school, youth custody or child care centre, the head of the agency or organization may need to be informed according to local protocols or guidelines.
Physical or sexual aggression between children where there is a power imbalance (e.g., significant difference in age, or where one child is much more vulnerable) As there may be a risk of harm to the vulnerable child, some intervention would be warranted.If the situation occurred in the home, or the parent is present outside the home and is unwilling or unable to protect the child, you have a duty to report this to a child welfare worker.If the situation occurred in a setting such as a school, child care setting, youth custody centre, etc. and the parent was not present and could not be reasonably expected to intervene, the head of the agency or organization would be primarily responsible. This person can make parents aware of the situation and assist with referrals to services.

Someone other than a child welfare worker may be best able to respond. For example, police or victim services may have a lead responsibility if there is a criminal offence.

You learn of historical abuse (abuse that has occurred in the past) If the abused person is a child, and abuse was due to the action or inaction of a parent, a child welfare worker is responsible for responding.If the child was abused in a school, youth custody or child care centre, the head of the organization is primarily responsible.If an adult discloses that they were abused as a child, they may be in a position to know if their abuser could be abusing other children. If the adult has reason to believe this is happening, that person has a legal duty to report this belief to a child welfare worker.

Police and victim services may also have a role to play, if there is a possible criminal offence.

You learn that a child has witnessed violence at home Witnessing domestic violence may cause emotional harm to a child.A child welfare worker is responsible for responding to your concern.Police and victim services may also have a role to play, if there is a possible criminal offence.
You learn that a child has been exposed to criminal behaviour at home (e.g., where drugs are being produced in the home) Witnessing criminal behaviour may cause harm to a child’s health, safety or wellbeing. A child welfare worker is responsible for responding to your concern.In most instances, police would initially be involved and they would make a report to a child welfare worker. If the police are not already involved, they should be notified.
You witness some of the physical and/or behavioural indicators of possible abuse or neglector

A child discloses abuse or neglect, or tells you someone they know has been abused

Indicators and child disclosures are the main ways child abuse and neglect can be identified. If you have reason to believe a child has been abused or neglected, you have a duty to report to a child welfare worker. If the abuse or neglect is the result of a parent’s action or inaction, a child welfare worker is primarily responsible for responding.If the abuse occurs in a setting such as a school, youth custody or child care centre, the head of the organization is responsible for responding. Police and victim services may also have a role to play, if there is a possible criminal offence.
An allegation of abuse or neglect is made during a custody or access dispute If you have reason to believe a child has been abused or neglected in these circumstances, you have a duty to report to a child welfare worker. The worker is primarily responsible for responding to these allegations. In addition, in the course of the dispute, a family justice counsellor, or anyone else directed by the court to assess custody and access disputes, has a duty to report the allegation to a child welfare worker.
A child under 12 has committed a serious criminal offence such as killing, assaulting or endangering another person The police would be involved in this situation and are required to make a report to a child welfare worker.