Child Abuse

Law

Child abuse includes any action or inaction that puts a child’s safety and well-being at risk. The abuser could be anyone who is responsible for the care of a child. See the sections below for information about:

  • What child abuse looks like
  • Different types of child abuse (including neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse, and sexual abuse)
  • How children who witness abuse in the home are affected
  • Requirements to report child abuse in Alberta
  • Older children and teens being abused
  • Adult survivors of childhood abuse

Choose the Process tab above for steps you can take if you or someone you know is being abused.

Please read “Who is this Information Page for?” below to make sure you are on the right page.

LegalAve provides general legal information, not legal advice. Learn more here.

Last Reviewed: May 2017
How to be safe on the internet

It is helpful to know how to look at things on the internet safely. You might not want someone else to see what you are looking at. Or you might want to learn how to delete your internet history, which shows which sites you have looked at. You might also not feel safe looking at family violence information, especially if you are in an abusive relationship and are afraid of your abuser.

For instructions on how to look at things on the internet safely and how to delete your browser history, see the Safe Browsing page.

For more information and tips about how to be safe on the internet, see the following resources.

Web Safe Browsing Tips: Computer, Phone and Tablet
domesticshelters.org
English

Web Protecting Your Email
domesticshelters.org
English

How to be safe on the phone

It is also helpful to know how to be safe when using the phone. Sometimes, when you make calls, the call history can be seen on your phone, or someone can hit “redial” to see who you last called. Or, you might just not want someone else to hear what you are talking about or asking for help about. This is especially true if you are in an abusive relationship. You may be afraid that the abuser will find out who you have been talking to. You might not feel safe calling for help—even in your own home.

For more information and tips about how to call for help safely, see the following resources.

Web How to Call for Help Safely
Alberta Council of Women's Shelters
English

Web How to Spy Spyware on Your Phone
domesticshelters.org
English

Web Apps Help Survivors' Messages Stay Secret
domesticshelters.org
English
Who is this Information Page for?

This Information Page is for people who want to know:

  • what child abuse looks like; and
  • what they can do if a child is being abused.

If you think a child is being abused, call the Child Abuse Hotline at 1‑800‑387‑5437 (KIDS) to speak with a caseworker.

If a child is abused, they may need help from Child Protective Services. For detailed information about what happens when Child Protective Services gets involved with a family, see the Child Protection Information Page.

You may have other concerns about family violence too. Someone who abuses a child may be abusive to other family members or pets. Learn more about other types of family violence and steps you can take to protect your loved ones in the following Information Pages.

In general, the law discussed on this Information Page is for people who live in Alberta.

You are currently on the Law tab of this Information Page, which has information on what the law says about child abuse in Alberta. Choose the Process tab above for steps you can take if you or someone you know is being abused. There is also important information in the Common Questions and Myths tabs above.

The first topic is What the words mean. Please read this section even if you think you already know what the words mean. In order to understand the resources on this page, you will need to understand the legal terms.

What the words mean

These words are not listed alphabetically—they are in the order that makes it easiest to understand the complete legal picture.

If you are looking for a specific term, you can use the Glossary, which is in alphabetical order.

family violence (also called “domestic violence” or “domestic abuse”)

Abuse of power by one person (the “abuser”) toward one or more other people that the abuser has a relationship with. It is a pattern of behaviours within a relationship of intimacy, dependency, and/or trust.

It is most common to think of family abuse happening in romantic relationships (such as dating, living together, and marriage). However, abuse can also occur in other relationships, such as those between parents and children, adult children and their parents (seniors), siblings, extended families, or people and their pets.

abuser

A person who uses their power in a relationship to control and/or harm a person with whom he or she has a relationship. The abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, or financial. Abusers can be anyone, whether a friend, parent, romantic partner, adult child, or caregiver.

victim

A person who uses their power in a relationship to control and/or harm a person with whom he or she has a relationship. The abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, or financial. Abusers can be anyone, whether a friend, parent, romantic partner, adult child, or caregiver.

child abuse

Child abuse includes any action or inaction that puts a child’s safety and well-being at risk. It is generally a pattern of behaviour rather than a single incident. The abuser could be anyone who is responsible for the care of a child, including a parent, guardian, relative, or other trusted adult.

The 4 main types of child abuse are: neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse, and sexual abuse. These are described in more detail in the “What is child abuse?” section below.

necessaries of life (sometimes called “necessities of life”)

Things that a person needs to maintain their condition of life, including food, clothing, shelter, or medical attention when needed. Necessaries of life can also go beyond these basic needs. What is considered to be “necessaries of life” depends on the circumstances of the people involved.

partner abuse

Partner abuse happens when someone causes injury or harm to the person who they are in a romantic relationship with. This type of abuse can happen between people who:

  • are currently dating, married, or living together; or
  • used to date, were previously married, or were previously living together.

safety plan

A plan that helps you prepare and stay safe in family violence situations. A safety plan can be used in many different situations, whether you are a parent, child, partner, elder, or pet owner.

shelter

A safe place where victims of domestic violence can go to live on a temporary basis.

criminal law

The system of law that involves punishing people who do things that harm people or property, or threaten to harm people or property. Property includes pets.

civil law

Civil law is the law that deals with disputes between individuals, such as family law and personal injury law.

The laws that may apply to you

As you work through and learn more about family violence, you may wish to read the laws (also called “statutes” or “acts”) that apply. The 4 main Alberta laws that apply are:

  • The Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act
  • Drug-endangered Children Act
  • Protection of Sexually Exploited Children Act
  • Protection Against Family Violence Act

For an overview of these 4 Alberta laws and links to the laws themselves, see the following resource.

Web Abuse & Bullying: Legislation
Government of Alberta
English

The main federal law that applies is the Criminal Code of Canada.

Web Criminal Code
Government of Canada
English

When reading laws, you also need to know about the “regulations” associated with those laws. Each of the links above takes you to a page that lists the laws as well as the regulations that go with them. For more information on laws and regulations, including what they are and how they work, see the Our Legal System Information Page.

What is child abuse? What does it look like?

Child abuse includes any action or inaction that puts a child’s safety and well-being at risk. It is generally a pattern of behaviour rather than a single incident. The abuser could be anyone who is responsible for the care of a child, including a parent, guardian, relative, or other trusted adult.

The 4 main types of child abuse are:

  • neglect;
  • emotional abuse;
  • physical abuse (including medical abuse); and
  • sexual abuse.

Each of these are described in detail below. Children who are abused may experience only one of these types of abuse, or a combination.

Be Aware

When children are exposed to violence in the home, it can be as harmful to them as being abused directly themselves. For more information about that, see the “Children witnessing family violence” section below.

Those who abuse children can be charged with a criminal offence. For more information about that, see the Family Violence: How Criminal & Civil Law Can Help Information Page.

Neglect

Parents and guardians are responsible for providing what their child needs, including:

  • physical needs, such as medical care, food, clothing, and shelter;
  • emotional and developmental needs, such as love, affection, education, a sense of belonging, and protection from emotional harm; and
  • appropriate supervision.

Neglect happens when a parent or guardian does not provide these things to a child. For detailed information about these responsibilities, see the Having a Child Information Page.

Neglect can often be noticed by others who come into contact with the child. For more information about what neglect looks like, see the following resources.

Web Neglect
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Recognizing Signs of Abuse and Neglect
Child Welfare Information Gateway
English

PDF Reconociendo Indicios de Abuso y Negligencia
Child Welfare Information Gateway
Spanish

Web Child Abuse is Wrong: What Can I Do?
Government of Canada
English
See “Neglect.”

Web La maltraitance des enfants est inacceptable : Que puis-je faire?
Government of Canada
French
Voir : “Négligence.”

Web Child Neglect
Psychology Today
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here. Choose “Symptoms” at the top of the page.

PDF Child Neglect I: Scope, Consequences, and Risk and Protective Factors
Canadian Child Welfare Research Portal
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

Web Are Absentee Parents Abusive?
domesticshelters.org
English

Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse happens when someone uses words or emotions to hurt someone else. It is sometimes called verbal abuse or psychological abuse. Emotional abuse is intended to scare the child, make the child feel bad about themselves, and/or control the child.

For more information about what emotional abuse looks like, see the following resources.

Web Emotional Injury
Government of Alberta
English

Web Child Abuse: Emotional Abuse by Parents
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Recognizing Signs of Abuse and Neglect
Child Welfare Information Gateway
English

PDF Reconociendo Indicios de Abuso y Negligencia
Child Welfare Information Gateway
Spanish

Web Child Abuse is Wrong: What Can I Do?
Government of Canada
English
See “Emotional abuse.”

Web La maltraitance des enfants est inacceptable : Que puis-je faire?
Government of Canada
French
Voir : “Maltraitance psychologique.”

PDF A Profile of Reported Emotional Maltreatment in Canada in 2008
Canadian Child Welfare Research Portal
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

Web Distinguishing Between Poor/Dysfunctional Parenting and Child Emotional Maltreatment
Government of Canada
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

Physical abuse

Physical abuse happens when a parent or guardian acts in a way that results in the child’s body being hurt. Physical abuse also includes “medical abuse,” which is described in more detail just below.

Physical abuse of a child often comes from using unreasonable force in trying to control a child. The parent or guardian:

  • may not be trying to hurt the child;
  • may not realize at the time how badly they are hurting the child; or
  • may end up hurting the child more than they intended.

Severe discipline (including some forms of spanking) can be considered physical abuse.

For information about what physical abuse may look like, see the following resources.

Web Physical Abuse
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Recognizing Signs of Abuse and Neglect
Child Welfare Information Gateway
English

PDF Reconociendo Indicios de Abuso y Negligencia
Child Welfare Information Gateway
Spanish

Web Child Abuse is Wrong: What Can I Do?
Government of Canada
English
See “Physical abuse” and “Child discipline.”

Web La maltraitance des enfants est inacceptable : Que puis-je faire?
Government of Canada
French
Voir : “Maltraitance physique” et “Discipliner ses enfants.”

Web Spanking and Disciplining Children
Public Legal Education and Information Service of New Brunswick
English

Web La fessé comme moyen discipliner les enfants
Public Legal Education and Information Service of New Brunswick
French
 

Discipline: What is “reasonable” force?

You are allowed to used “reasonable force” to discipline a child. This is set out in Section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada.

The Supreme Court of Canada has set guidelines to describe force that is “reasonable” in disciplining a child between the ages of 2 and 12.

  • The impact of the force must be only “transitory and trifling.” This means that the effect must be brief and not serious.
  • The force used must not be degrading, inhumane, or harmful.
  • The person must not use an object, such as a ruler or belt, when applying the force.
  • The person must not hit or slap the child’s head.
  • No matter how serious the child’s action or behaviour was, the force must still be reasonable.
  • The force must not be used in anger or to get back at the child. It must only be used to help the child learn.
Be Aware

Section 43 can never be a defence against using force on a child under age 2, a child who is suffering from a disability, or a teenager.

If you use force that is not “reasonable” in disciplining your child, you could be charged with an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada. Also, Child and Family Services may step in to protect your child under the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act.

For more information, see the following resources.

Web Guardianship, Parenting, Custody, and Access
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See “Discipline.”


Web Corporal Punishment & "Spanking"
Justice for Children and Youth
English

Web The "Spanking" Law: Section 43 of the Criminal Code
Government of Canada
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

Web What's wrong with spanking?
Government of Canada
English

French resources:


Web Châtiments corporels et la fessée
Justice for Children and Youth
French

Web La loi et le châtiment corporel : L'article 43 du Code criminel
Government of Canada
French
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

Web Pourquoi faut-il éviter de donner la fessée?
Government of Canada
French
 

Medical abuse

Physical abuse may also include medical abuse. Medical child abuse happens when someone purposely puts a child’s health at risk by misusing the medical system. This could include:

  • giving them medicine they don’t need;
  • refusing to give them medicine that they do need;
  • causing an injury that looks like a medical problem, which then leads to unnecessary medical treatment; or
  • insisting to doctors that the child has symptoms so that the child ends up having unnecessary and possibly harmful tests.

For more information about what medical child abuse may look like, see the following resources.

Web Child abuse
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research
English

Book Medical Child Abuse: Beyond Munchausen by Proxy
American Academy of Pediatrics
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse happens when a parent or guardian exposes a child to sexual contact, activities, or behaviours. This may or may not include touching the child. Even inappropriate sexual conversations or exposure to pornography can be sexual abuse.

Sexual abuse also includes “sexual exploitation,” such as involving someone under 18 in prostitution or making pornography.

For more information about what sexual abuse looks like, see the following resources.

Web Sexual Abuse
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Fact Sheet: Child Abuse
Native Women's Association of Canada
English

PDF Recognizing Signs of Abuse and Neglect
Child Welfare Information Gateway
English

PDF Reconociendo Indicios de Abuso y Negligencia
Child Welfare Information Gateway
Spanish

Web Child Abuse is Wrong: What Can I Do?
Government of Canada
English
See “Sexual abuse.”

Web La maltraitance des enfants est inacceptable : Que puis-je faire?
Government of Canada
French
Voir : “Maltraitance sexuelle.”

Web When Incest Accompanies Domestic Violence
domesticshelters.org
English

Video Offrir son aide
Action ontarienne contre la violence faite aux femmes
French

For more information about child sexual exploitation, see the following resources.

Web Child Sexual Exploitation
Government of Alberta
English

Web Child Sexual Exploitation: The Law
Government of Alberta
English

Web Child Sexual Exploitation: Getting Help
Government of Alberta
English

PDF The truth about sexual exploitation
Government of Alberta
English



More information about child abuse

For more information about what child abuse can look like, see the following resources.

Web Parental Abuse Help Guide
theSingleMother.com
English


Web Child abuse and neglect
Government of Alberta
English

Web What Is Child Abuse?
Zebra Child Protection Centre
English




Video Child Protection
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.
Children witnessing family violence

Children are strongly affected by witnessing the abuse of one of their parents. This is true even if the children are not abused themselves. People often don’t realize how much children see and hear around them. A child can know about abuse in the home, even if they are not in the room where it is happening. Children may think that the abuse is their fault, or they may start to think that abusing others is OK. Children who witness abuse often develop emotional problems or learning problems.

When children witness the abuse of others, it can be as harmful to them as being abused directly themselves.

Sometimes abusers may force their victims (including children) to see their loved ones and pets being abused. This is a form of emotional abuse.

A parent being abused may not realize the effect that being around abusive behaviour has on their children. They may think it’s safer to stay than to go. For detailed information about safety planning when there is family violence in the home, see the Safety Planning & Preparing to Leave Information Page. For organizations that can help with safety plans and other family violence concerns, see the Family Violence: Resources to Help Information Page.

Be Aware

Growing up in an abusive home can even lead to children becoming abusive as adults. For information for adult survivors of child abuse, see the “Adult survivors of child abuse” section below.

How witnessing abuse can affect children

For more basic information about how children who witness abuse might be affected, see the following resources.

Web The Effects of Abuse
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Effects on Children
Government of Alberta
English


Web Domestic Violence: How it Affects Children
Government of Alberta
English


Web Effects on Children
Edmonton Police Service
English

Web 5 Facts About Children of Domestic Violence
domesticshelters.org
English


Web When Children Witness Violence
domesticshelters.org
English


Video Tu connais…quelqu’un qui vit dans une famille où il y a de la violence conjugale?
Action ontarienne contre la violence faite aux femmes
French

Video Tu connais... les effets de la violence conjugale sur les enfants?
Action ontarienne contre la violence faite aux femmes
French

For more detailed information and reports about how children who witness abuse might be affected, see the following resources.

PDF Child Abuse / Children Exposed to Family Violence
Government of Alberta
English
   
PDF Little eyes, little ears: How violence against a mother shapes children as they grow
Centre for Children and Families in the Justice System
English


Presentation Children Exposed to Family Violence
Alberta Council of Women's Shelters
English

PDF Why Pets Mean So Much: The Human-Animal Bond in the Context of Intimate Partner Violence
National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women
English
See “If Children are Exposed to Animal Abuse in the Home.”

Talking to children about abuse in the home

If you know a child who has been exposed to domestic violence, it can help the child to talk about it. See the following resources for places to start.

Web Explaining Violence to Kids
domesticshelters.org
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here

Web Putting Domestic Violence in Pictures
domesticshelters.org
English

You are required to report suspected child abuse

Under Alberta law, anyone who has “reasonable and probable grounds” to believe that a child is being abused, or is at risk of being abused, must report it. This is part of Alberta’s Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act.

Children rely on adults to keep them safe. Also, if you do not report suspected abuse, you could be fined up to $2,000.

Child abuse can include:

  • neglect;
  • emotional abuse;
  • physical abuse (including medical abuse); or
  • sexual abuse.

For detailed information about these types of abuse, see the section above called “What is child abuse? What does it look like?”

If you think a child is being abused, call the Child Abuse Hotline at 1‑800‑387‑5437 (KIDS) to speak with a caseworker.

For more information about your duty to report suspected child abuse, see the following resources.

Web How can I help?
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Responding to Child Abuse in Alberta: A Handbook
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 1 of the Handbook.

Web Teachers: How to recognize and report child abuse
John Howard Society of Alberta
English

See the Process tab of this Information Page for detailed information about:

  • How to respond if a child tells you he or she is being abused
  • Reporting suspected child abuse
  • What will happen after a report is made
How common is child abuse and neglect in Canada?

Child abuse is more common than you think. A recent study found that nearly one-third of Canadians had experienced some form of child abuse. The western provinces (including Alberta) have the highest rate of child abuse in Canada.

If you think a child is being abused, call the Child Abuse Hotline at 1‑800‑387‑5437 (KIDS) to speak with a caseworker.

For more statistics about child abuse in Alberta, see the following resources.

Web Alberta - Statistics
Canadian Child Welfare Research Portal
English

For more statistics about child abuse in Canada, see the following resources.

Web Facts on Child Abuse and Neglect
Canadian Red Cross
English


Web Family violence: how big is the problem in Canada?
Government of Canada
English
See “Child abuse and neglect.”

Web Violence familiale : Quelle est l’ampleur du problème?
Government of Canada
French
Voir : “Mauvais traitements à l’égard des enfants et négligence.”

PDF Child Abuse Fact Sheet
Ending Violence Association of British Columbia
English
See “Statistics.”

Web Facts about child abuse
Boost Child & Youth Advocacy Centre
English
See “Statistics.”

Web Emotional child abuse statistics
Humanity Against Local Terrorism
English
What children are at risk of child abuse?

Family violence can happen to people in all parts of society. It does not matter:

  • how old they are;
  • whether they are female or male;
  • what their ethnic background or religion is; or
  • whether they are rich or poor.

However, some factors put families at a higher risk of child abuse. For more information, see the following resources.

Web Child Abuse and Neglect: What Increases the Risk
Government of Alberta
English

Web Child Abuse and Neglect: Prevention
Government of Alberta
English


Web What puts families at risk of violence and what helps protect them?
Government of Canada
English
See “Child abuse & neglect.”

Web Quels facteurs augmentent le risque de violence au sein des familles et quelles mesures peuvent les protéger?
Government of Canada
French
Voir : “Mauvais traitements à l’égard des enfants et négligence.”

Video Child Protection
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
Older children and teens being abused

If you are being abused, remember that abuse is wrong, and it is not your fault. The responsibility belongs only to the abuser. No one ever deserves to be abused. You should not feel ashamed or embarrassed about abuse.

Dealing with abuse in your home

For more information about what you can do if you are abused or if there is abuse in your home, see the following resources. There are also places that can help listed in the Family Violence: Resources to Help Information Page.

Web Abuse: Youth
Government of Alberta
English

Web Information for Children and Youth
Government of Canada
English

Web Abuse at Home
Justice Education Society
English


Web ACWS member shelters
Alberta Council of Women's Shelters
English

Web What Youth Want To Know
Canadian Child Welfare Research Portal
English

Web Parental Abuse Help Guide
theSingleMother.com
English



Web Family Abuse (and the effect on teenagers)
theSingleMother.com
English

Dealing with dating violence

Teens may also experience dating violence. Sometimes, this may be hard to recognize when you are in the relationship. For more information about what dating violence looks like and what you can do if you are a victim of dating violence, see the following resources and the Partner Abuse Information Page.

Web Dating Violence
Government of Alberta
English


​​​
Be Aware

If you were forced to get married or are being forced to marry someone, that is also a form of family violence. Forced marriages are not valid marriages. For options on how to end the marriage, see the Ending a Married Relationship under the Divorce Act Information Page.

“Honour” crimes

Some young people may be abused by a family member based on “honour.” In these cases, a victim’s family believes that the victim is acting in a way that will bring shame to the family. If the family member’s violent actions are a crime, “honour” is not a defence in Canada. The action will still be a crime.

If you fear for your safety, call the police.

For more information, see the following resource.

Web Child Abuse is Wrong: What Can I Do?
Government of Canada
English
See “Violence based on so-called honour.”

Web La maltraitance des enfants est inacceptable : Que puis-je faire?
Government of Canada
French
Voir : “Violence liée au soi-disant honneur.”

Resources to help

There are places that can help.

For general family violence information and referrals to supports and services in your area, contact the Family Violence Info Line. Their toll-free phone number is 310-1818, and they are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in more than 170 languages.

You can also go to their website and chat online. The online chat is available every day from noon until 8:00 pm. The online chat is anonymous, which means that the person you speak to will not know who you are and you will not know who they are. The online chat is only available in English. If you would like to speak to someone in another language, it is best to talk to a staff member over the phone. See the following resource to start a chat session.

Web Find Supports and Services
Government of Alberta
English
Aboriginal matters and on-reserve considerations

Statistics show that Aboriginal children are more likely to be involved with the child welfare system than non-Aboriginal children. This is a result of various factors that are rooted in Canada’s history of colonization and residential schools. For more information, see the following resources.

Video Home Fire - Ending the Cycle of Family Violence
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

PDF Home Fire Ending the Cycle of Family Violence: DVD Discussion Guide
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English




 

When Aboriginal children are involved with the child welfare system, there are now certain requirements to try to keep them as connected to their cultures as possible. For more information, see the following resources and the Child Protection Information Page.

Web Child Protection Law
YWCA Canada
English
See “The Role of Aboriginal Communities in Aboriginal Child Welfare.”

Web Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Canadian Child Welfare Research Portal
English
See “How do Canadian child welfare systems work for Aboriginal children?”

PDF Alberta's Child Welfare System
Canadian Child Welfare Research Portal
English
See p. 4.

PDF Child Intervention 101
Chinook's Edge School Division
English
 

For more information about family violence in Aboriginal families, see the following resources.

Web Aboriginal Families
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Aboriginal Children Exposed to Family Violence: A Discussion Paper
Native Women's Association of Canada
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

PDF Aboriginal Domestic Violence in Canada
Aboriginal Healing Foundation
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.
What to do if you think a child is being abused

If you think a child is being abused, call the Child Abuse Hotline at 1‑800‑387‑5437 (KIDS) to speak with a caseworker.

See the Process tab of this Information Page for detailed information about:

  • How to respond if a child tells you he or she is being abused
  • Reporting suspected child abuse
  • What will happen after a report is made
Intervention, enhancement, and Child Protective Services

When a report is made about child abuse, a caseworker from Child Protective Services will the report. What happens next will depend on the exact situation. The child may:

  • be found to be safe and the case closed;
  • be found to be at some risk and the family is given support to change the situation; or
  • be found to be at significant risk and, as a first step, the child is taken from the home (“apprehended”).

There is detailed information about the laws, processes, and steps involved on the Child Protection Information Page.

Adult survivors of child abuse

Survivors of child abuse might experience the trauma of child abuse long after they have grown up and left the home.

For more information on how surviving child abuse might affect someone, and places that can help, see the following resources.

PDF Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse
Government of Canada
English



Web 5 Facts About Children of Domestic Violence
domesticshelters.org
English


Web Believe This, Not That
domesticshelters.org
English


Web For Adult Survivors
Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre
English

Web Resources for Survivors
Survivors of Abuse Recovering
English

Web Resources for Friends, Family, Partners of Survivors
Survivors of Abuse Recovering
English

Process

If you think a child is being abused, call the Child Abuse Hotline at 1‑800‑387‑5437 (KIDS) to speak with a caseworker.

See the sections below for information about:

  • What to do if a child tells you about abuse
  • Reporting suspected child abuse
  • What happens after you report suspected child abuse

Please read “Who is this Information Page for?” below to make sure you are on the right page.

LegalAve provides general legal information, not legal advice. Learn more here.

Last Reviewed: May 2017
Who is this Information Page for?

This Information Page is for people who want to know what to do if they suspect child abuse.

You may have other concerns about family violence too. Someone who abuses a child may be abusive to other family members or pets. Learn more about other types of family violence and steps you can take to protect your loved ones in the following Information Pages.

What to do if a child tells you about abuse

If a child tells you about being abused, it means the child trusts you. It is important to let the child know that it isn’t their fault, and that they did the right thing in telling you.

If you think a child is being abused, call the Child Abuse Hotline at 1‑800‑387‑5437 (KIDS) to speak with a caseworker.

For more information about how to respond when a child tells you they are abused, see the following resources.

Web Steps to Responding to Child Abuse
Government of Alberta
English

Web What Is Child Abuse?
Zebra Child Protection Centre
English
See “How to respond to a disclosure of child abuse.”

PDF Fact Sheet: Child Abuse
Native Women's Association of Canada
English
See “Guidelines for Responding to a Child.”

Web How to Respond to a Disclosure
Canadian Red Cross
English


PDF Responding to children and young people’s disclosures of abuse
Australian Institute of Family Studies
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Child Abuse and Neglect: Recognizing the Signs and Making a Difference
Helpguide
English
See “Helping an abused or neglected child.”

PDF Little eyes, little ears: How violence against a mother shapes children as they grow
Centre for Children and Families in the Justice System
English
See p. 34-35.

Web Disclosure Do's And Don'ts
Women Win
English, French, Portuguese, Spanish

PDF Reporting Child Sexual Abuse: Guide for Parents
Leduc & District Victim Assistance Society
English

PDF Information Sheets
Boost Child & Youth Advocacy Centre
Chinese, English, French, Punjabi, Spanish, Tamil, Urdu
See “Do’s and Don’ts when there is a disclosure.”
Reporting suspected child abuse

If you have a reason to believe that a child is being abused, you have a duty to report it.

Children rely on adults to keep them safe. Also, if you do not report suspected abuse, you could be fined up to $2,000.

If you think a child is being abused, call the Child Abuse Hotline at 1‑800‑387‑5437 (KIDS) to speak with a caseworker.

When you report child abuse, Child Protective Services will investigate the situation.

For more information on reporting child abuse and what will happen after the report, see the following resources.

Web Child Abuse
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Recognizing and reporting child abuse in Alberta
Government of Alberta
English

Web How can I help?
Government of Alberta
English

Web What happens when I call?
Government of Alberta
English

Web Child Abuse and Neglect: When to Seek Help
Government of Alberta
English


PDF Responding to Child Abuse in Alberta: A Handbook
Government of Alberta
English
 
PDF Reporting Child Sexual Abuse: Guide for Parents
Leduc & District Victim Assistance Society
English

Web Child Protection
Edmonton Police Service
English

Audio/Web Child Abuse
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Web Child Abuse is Wrong: What Can I Do?
Government of Canada
English
See “How do I report abuse?”

Web Suspect Child Abuse
Government of Alberta
English

Video Child Protection
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.
Intervention, enhancement, and Child Protective Services

When a report is made about child abuse, a caseworker from Child Protective Services will investigate the report. What happens next will depend on the exact situation. The child may:

  • be found to be safe and the case closed;
  • be found to be at some risk and the family is given support to change the situation; or
  • be found to be at significant risk and, as a first step, the child is taken from the home (“apprehended”).

There is detailed information about the laws, processes, and steps involved on the Child Protection Information Page.

What to do if you think you may be abusive

Sometimes parents may have questions about how they are treating their children. They may wonder whether their behaviour is harmful to their child. A parent may be repeating unhealthy patterns because they grew up in an abusive home themselves. Or, parents may not know how to use “positive parenting” techniques to deal with difficult issues with their children.

The Alberta government has programs and support services to help parents. For more information, see the following resources.

Web Parent Link Centres
Government of Alberta
English

Web Tips for Parents
Government of Alberta
English

Web What is Child Abuse?
Government of Alberta
English

Web Child Abuse and Neglect: Recognizing the Signs and Making a Difference
Helpguide
English
See “Recognizing abusive behavior in yourself.”

If your family is already involved with Child Protective Services, you may have questions about the steps involved. See the Child Protection Information Page for information about that.

Provincial Court

Queen's Bench

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