British Columbia Child Protection FAQs | Watson Goepel LLP

What is Child Protection?

When the safety of a child in their home environment is brought into question, the British Columbia Ministry of Children and Family Development will become involved, and take the steps it deems necessary to protect the child. These steps may include offering supports to the family, providing terms and conditions the parents must follow to keep the child in the home, or removing the children from the care of their parents.

What would cause the Ministry of Children and Family Development to become involved in a child’s life?

The Ministry becomes involved if credible allegations have been made against a family involving abuse, neglect, harm or threats of harm to a child.  This can include issues involving physical or mental abuse in the household, caretaker addiction issues, failure to provide a safe environment for a child, or failure to take care of a child’s medical or educational needs. The Ministry of Children and Family Development typically receives reports of abuse or neglect from community members including teachers, counselors, or sometimes from family members.  A social worker, on behalf of the Ministry, is required to follow up on and investigate all allegations.

If the social worker determines there is harm occurring in the home, what happens next?

The social worker will work directly with the family to develop a plan to address the concerns.  If this does not resolve the issue, the social worker can then seek to mediate a resolution, or can apply to the Provincial Court for a Supervision Order that compels parents or caretakers to follow certain terms and conditions to ensure the wellbeing of the child.  If there is serious risk of harm, the social worker may remove the child from the custody of the parents with no notice and then apply to the court for an Order that the child remain in the care of the Ministry for a specified period of time so that the Ministry can investigate further.  Once the investigation is complete, decisions will be made about where and how the child will be cared for, whether that be in foster care, in a family member’s home, or in the home of one or both parents under supervision.

What can parents do when the Ministry of Children and Family Development has become involved?

It is important for parents to have someone on their side that understands the legislation and knows how to navigate the complex Ministry system. A lawyer can provide advice and guidance and can help parents address or disprove the concerns that caused the Ministry to become involved in the first place. If the matter has moved into the court system, a lawyer can speak on a parent’s behalf in court and/or at mediation. Involvement with the Ministry can be understandably emotional for families and it is helpful to have a lawyer to communicate and advocate with the Ministry on your behalf, in a focused and effective way, to address all outstanding concerns and help reach a satisfactory resolution.

What can other family members such as aunts, uncles, and grandparents do when the Ministry of Children and Family Development has become involved?

The Ministry of Children and Family Development generally looks to family members first to assist with ensuring the safety of a child.  Sometimes family members are asked to care for the child when the parents are challenged to do so.  It is also useful for these family members to have the assistance of a lawyer to help navigate the system, particularly when a family member may want to apply for temporary or permanent custody of the child.