This may be the most terrifying prospect as a parent – the Children’s Aid Society (“Society”) shows up at your door unannounced to investigate whether your children are safe in your care. As emotional and unnerving as this may be, it is incredibly important as a parent to know your rights so you can react appropriately. The Society does not do random checks on people’s homes so if they show up at your door, they are there in response to an allegation of child abuse or neglect.
Here a few helpful tips to keep in mind if the Society shows up at your door:
- Call a lawyer with experience in child protection: You may come to learn that the Society is investigating you when you return home to find a business card from a Society worker. Before calling the worker, try to speak with a lawyer that practices child protection law/does children’s aid society cases. This is a very specialized area of law and it is very different from family law or criminal law. If at all possible, get that lawyer involved from the beginning because their involvement will be very beneficial to your case in the long term. Ensure you have your lawyer’s input before agreeing to anything with the Society or signing any consents to allow them to speak to third parties. Do not outright refuse those requests but ensure you use your legal counsel to assist you in all areas of the investigation.
- Cooperate with the Society worker: If you evade and avoid the worker, you are going to look like you are trying to hide something and this will be used against you in the investigation and any future court proceeding. Be sure that you are courteous and respond to Society contact in a reasonable timeframe. It should be noted that if the issues being investigated are in any way related to an allegation of criminal activities, then ensure you have spoken with and followed advice from your criminal counsel before making any statements in the child protection matter.
- Presentation matters: It matters that the Society perceives your home and your personal presentation in a positive way. If the Society worker is coming to your home, make sure it is clean and tidy and that it is a safe environment for your children. Ensure you are well-presented and polite to the Society worker. You will inevitably see the Society worker as an adversary but you need to interact with them in a way that is kind and respectful. The goal of all involved in a child protection investigation is to work towards the goal of identifying and putting into place the best plan for the child/children. If you are acting with kindness and respect towards the Society worker, your plan for the children will certainly be viewed in a more positive light.
- Let the Society worker do their job: You will need to allow the Society worker meet with/interview the child/children alone. Although this may seem scary and invasive, it is a necessary step of the investigation and trying to impede this will only draw out the investigation and likely ensure the Society’s involvement continues.
- Get disclosure of your file: You have a right to review the Society file, subject to the removal/redaction of identifying information about third parties. Ensure you request this file whether or not the investigation goes beyond just an interview and file closure.
- Ensure the file is closed: If the Society worker has told you they will not be taking the matter beyond an investigation, ensure you request and track receipt of a letter from the Society confirming they have closed the referral. Keep this letter for the future in case you find yourself in the situation of another Society investigation.