Fact Sheet: Duty To Report

Publication Date: 
Resource Origin: 
Springtide Resources

by Pamela Cross, LLB

All professionals working with children have a duty to report suspicions of child abuse.  The Child and Family Services Act sets out the legal duty to report obligation:

  • it applies to everyone, including those who perform professional or official duties related to children
  • there is a duty to report if the person has "reasonable grounds to suspect" that a child may be in need of protection
  • this includes harm or risk of harm from physical, sexual or emotional abuse or neglect.

"Reasonable grounds to suspect" means there is enough information for an average person, exercising normal and honest judgment, to make a decision to report.  It is less information than would be required to make the person absolutely certain.

Professionals have a higher duty to report than other members of the public and can be fined up to $1,000 if they fail to report their suspicions that a child may be in need of protection.

Who is a professional?

Professionals include:

  • health care providers, including physicians, nurses, dentists
  • teachers and principals
  • social workers and family counselors
  • religious leaders
  • day care workers
  • youth and recreation workers
  • police officers

This includes violence against women workers.

Note: Volunteers do not have this duty to report.

What do I have to do?

The duty to report is ongoing until action is taken -- if there is no apparent response or the person believes the child is being harmed or at risk of being harmed, she must report again as often as necessary.

The duty to report requires the professional to make an assessment of the situation; it does not require the professional to report every time a woman with children seeks services.

What if the woman has left her abuser?

Where a woman has taken or is taking steps to protect the children from exposure to woman abuse, reporting to child protection authorities is not required.

This could include a woman who has:

  • realistic plans to seek custody of her children
  • come to a shelter with her children to live
  • taken steps to find housing for herself and her children
  • reported the abuse to the police so her abuser can be charged
  • hired a family law lawyer

This fact sheet contains general legal information only.  It is not a legal document, nor is it a replacement for legal advice.  Anyone in a situation involving an issue of law is strongly urged to meet with a lawyer to understand fully their rights and responsibilities, the legal options available to them and appropriate legal processes.  A lawyer can interpret the law and provide advice based on the personal facts and information in the specific case.

For information about finding a lawyer in your community, contact Legal Aid Ontario at 1 800 668 8258 or 417 979 1446.

You can also visit Legal Aid Ontario online at www.legalaid.on.ca

Copyright 2012 Pamela Cross. Original development of this resource was funded by The Law Foundation of Ontario.