Child Abuse and Neglect - Duty to Report

The Child and Family Services Act (CFSA) recognizes that the public, including professionals who work with children, must promptly report any suspicions that a child is or may be in need of protection directly to a children’s aid society. This is referred to as one’s “duty to report”.

The CFSA states that people working closely with children have a special awareness of the signs of child abuse or neglect, and a particular responsibility to report their suspicions. Under the Act, persons who perform professional or official duties with respect to children include:

  • Health care professionals, including physicians, nurses, dentists, pharmacists and psychologists;
  • Teachers and school principals;
  • Social workers and family counsellors;
  • Religious leaders, including priests, rabbis and members of the clergy;
  • Operators or employees of child care centres;
  • Youth and recreation workers (not volunteers);
  • Peace officers and coroners;
  • Child and youth service providers and employees of these service providers; and
  • Any other person who performs professional or official duties with respect to a child.

Professionals should never hesitate to report suspected child abuse or neglect. It is their legal duty to make a report to a children’s aid society where they have reasonable grounds to suspect that a child is or may be in need of protection. Any professional or official who fails to report a suspicion of child abuse or neglect is liable upon conviction to a fine of up to $1,000, if this information is obtained in the course of their professional or official duties. The CFSA specifies that a person who acts in accordance with the duty to report is protected from civil actions, unless the person acts maliciously or without reasonable grounds for the suspicion.

For contact and other information of all Ontario’s children’s aid societies, please visit the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies’ website. You can also locate a children’s aid society in the local telephone listings or, where available, by dialing 411.

For more information, please visit the website of the Ministry of Children and Youth Services.

The “Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect: It’s Your Duty” brochure is a useful resource and can be located on the Ministry’s website or through Publications Ontario free of charge. The brochure can be found here.