Child Protection (also called Child Welfare)

Law

If a child is in need of protection, there are laws that can help. See the sections below for information about:

  • What the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act is
  • What Child Protective Services is
  • How the law decides if a child is in need of protection
  • What will happen when Child Protective Services gets a report about a child in need of protection
  • Who can help children and parents involved with the child protection system
  • The different types of “intervention” to protect children (including Early Intervention Services, Enhancement Agreements, Supervision Orders, Custody Agreements, Apprehension, Temporary Guardianship Orders, Permanent Guardianship Orders, and Secure Services Orders)
  • Other laws that protect children in Alberta (including the Protection of Sexually Exploited Children Act, the Drug-endangered Children Act, and the Protection of Children Abusing Drugs Act)

Choose the Process tab above for steps you can take to address issues with Child Protective Services and their decisions.

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: March 2017
Who is this Information Page for?

This Information Page has information about:

  • when the law protects children who are at risk of harm; and
  • what steps Child Protective Services can take to protect those children.

This Information Page is for:

  • anyone who thinks that a child may be in need of protection (whether it is a child they know or have just come into contact with);
  • parents or guardians who are concerned that Child Protective Services might become involved with their family; and
  • parents or guardians currently dealing with Child Protective Services.

This Information Page is mostly about how Alberta's Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act protects children. There are other laws that can protect children too. For more information about these laws, see the section below called "The laws that may apply to 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.

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 the child welfare system in Alberta. 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.

child (also called “minor”)

A person who is not yet an adult (has not reached the “age of majority”).

Be Aware

The age of majority is different across Canada. In Alberta, the age at which a person is considered an adult is 18.

child welfare

A term that refers to the government’s responsibility to help children who are being harmed, or at risk of being harmed. This can include physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect.

best interests of the child

The factors that courts must consider when making decisions about a child. The best interests of the child “test” is made up of many considerations that focus on the well-being of the child.

For example:

  • the physical, psychological, and emotional safety and well-being of the child;
  • the child’s need for stability, taking into consideration the child’s age and stage of development and attachment;
  • the child’s history of care;
  • the child’s cultural and religious background; and
  • for older children, the wishes of the child.

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.

For more information, see the Child Abuse Information Page.

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 goes beyond these basic needs. What is considered to be “necessaries of life” depends on the circumstances of the people involved.

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.

Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act (CYFEA)

The Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act (CYFEA) is the main Alberta law that deals with the protection of children (called “child welfare”). This law sets out what happens when the government gets involved in the care of the child (“intervention”).

Be Aware

There are other laws in Alberta that also deal with children in need of protection. These laws work together with the CYFEA. For more information, see the sections below that start with “Other Alberta laws that protect children.”

intervention

Action taken by the government to protect a child at risk of harm. There are different kinds intervention. The kind of intervention used at a given time depends on:

  • the child’s situation; and
  • the law being used to allow intervention.

Child Protective Services (CPS)

A branch of the Alberta government that investigates reports that a parent is not able or willing to ensure the well-being of their children. CPS will look for signs of child abuse or neglect. If necessary, CPS will get involved with the family through “intervention” methods.

Director

A person responsible for investigating reports made to Child Protective Services (CPS) about the safety and security of a child. The Director also decides whether a child is in need of intervention and, if necessary, applies to the Court for intervention.

The term “Director” describes a role, not a single person. It refers to a number of people who work with Child Protective Services. Under the CYFEA, the Minister of Children’s Services names several directors. These directors appoint child protection social workers to deliver child protection services. The term “Director” can refer to any of these people.

At different times, the terms “Child Protective Services” or “the Director” may be used to name those acting under the CFYEA. On legal documents, you will most often see the term “the Director.”

guardian (of a child)

A person who has the right to make decisions for a child, and the responsibility to care for that child by providing the “necessaries of life,” such as food and shelter. This role is called “guardianship.”

A person does not have to be a parent to be a guardian, and not all parents are guardians (although most are).

Early Intervention Services

A program of Child Protective Services that supports safe and healthy children and families. Early Intervention Services looks at the family’s situation to identify the most effective ways of helping the family through their challenges. This may mean providing some short-term services to a child and family, or referring them to get help from a community program.

With Early Intervention Services, Child Protective Services does not have custody of your child.

For more information, see the “Early Intervention Services” section below.

Family Enhancement Agreements

A formal written agreement between the parents/guardians and Child Protective Services (CPS). It is meant to encourage families to work directly with CPS workers and community programs to address the issues that brought the family to the attention of Child Protective Services.

With a Family Enhancement Agreement, the child stays in the custody of the parents/guardians. However, the parents/guardians agree to take certain steps to help the family situation.

For more information, see the “Enhancement Agreements” section below.

Youth Enhancement Agreements

A formal written agreement that is made between Child Protective Services and a youth aged 16 or over who is living on their own. It is meant to address the issues that brought the family to the attention of Child Protective Services. A Youth Enhancement Agreement can be made whether or not the child has been in government custody.

For more information, see the “Enhancement Agreements” section below.

Supervision Orders

A court order allowing a child to remain in the custody of their parent/guardian, but requiring supervision and protective services for the survival, security, and development of the child.

A Supervision Order will often contain terms and conditions that must be followed by:

  • Child Protective Services;
  • the parent/guardian; and
  • any other person living with the child.

There are many kind of “conditions” that can be included in Supervision Orders. Which conditions are ordered will depend on the exact situation. The Court can order anything it thinks is reasonable in the circumstances.

Apprehension

The process of removing a child from the care and control of a guardian, and putting the child into the custody of Child Protective Services (CPS). CPS then has temporary guardianship of the child.

Apprehension Order

A court order that gives Child Protective Services (CPS) the authority to take the child from the custody of their parent or guardian. To get an Apprehension Order, it must be shown that the child is in need of protection. CPS can apply for an Apprehension Order with or without notice to the parents/guardians.

Apprehension Orders can happen under several Alberta laws, including the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act.

Custody Agreement with a guardian

A formal written agreement between the parents/guardians and Child Protective Services (CPS). In this agreement:

  • the parents/guardians continue to have guardianship of the child;
  • however, the parents/guardians agree to have the child placed government custody; and
  • the child is removed from the home and is placed with someone else. This can be with a family member or friend (kinship care), or in foster care.

Because the parents/guardians have agreed, there is no need to go to court and there is no court order.

In many cases, the parents/guardians can still spend time with the the child. This is sometimes called “access” or “contact.”

Custody Agreement with a youth

A formal written agreement between Child Protective Services (CPS) and a youth in need of protection who is at least 16 years old. This kind of agreement is used if the survival, security, and development of the youth can be protected enough through the agreement (instead of by some other intervention).

In this agreement:

  • the parents/guardians continue to have guardianship of the child;
  • however, the youth lives independently from their guardian; and
  • the youth is eligible for all services available to any youth in care.

Temporary Guardianship Order (TGO)

A court order that makes the Director a joint guardian of the child. This means that the parents/guardians may still be consulted for major decisions. However, they do not have to be. Under a TGO, the Director has the final responsibility for the child. The Director will make all final decisions based on what they feel is in the best interests of the child.

Permanent Guardianship Order (PGO)

A court order that makes the Director the sole guardian of the child. This means that the Director will make all decisions about the child without the involvement of the parents or former guardians.

Initial Custody (application and order)

After a child has been apprehended, Child Protective Services may want to apply for a Temporary Guardianship Order (TGO) or Permanent Guardianship Order (PGO). In this case, they must also apply for an “Initial Custody” Order. Initial custody refers to who should have care and control of the child until the decision about the TGO or PGO is made.

Secure Services Order (SSO)

A court order that allows Child Protective Services to keep a child in a “secure services facility” for a period of 5 days or less. This is called “confinement.” The time is used to stabilize and assess the child. During that time, Child Protective Services creates a plan of care for when the child comes out of the facility.

kinship care

When it is not safe for a child to stay in his or her home, Child Protective Services may place the child with relatives or close family friends. This is called “kinship care.”

Kinship caregivers:

  • give the child a safe and stable place to call home while the child is in government care; and
  • get support from the Alberta government to make sure the child is provided for.

foster care

When it is not safe for a child to stay in his or her home, Child Protective Services may place the child with temporary caregivers who are not known to the child. This is called “foster care.”

Foster families:

  • give the child a safe and stable place to call home while the child is in government care; and
  • get support from the Alberta government to make sure the child is provided for.
The laws that may apply to you

In Alberta, children at risk of harm are protected by several laws. The main law is the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act (CYFEA). On this Information Page, we focus mostly on the CYFEA.

Other provincial laws that help to protect children include:

  • the Protection of Sexually Exploited Children Act;
  • the Protection of Children Abusing Drugs Act; and
  • the Drug-endangered Children’s Act.

These laws work together with the CYFEA. Information about these laws is included after the general information about child intervention under the CYFEA. For more information, see the sections below that start with “Other Alberta laws that protect children.”

For child protection matters, there are also:

  • general laws that have parts meant to protect children (for example, Alberta’s Protection Against Family Violence Act); and
  • general laws that have parts meant to punish people who harm children (for example: the Criminal Code of Canada).

As you work through and learn more about the child welfare system, you may wish to read the laws (also called “statutes” or “acts”) that apply.


Web Abuse & Bullying: Legislation
Government of Alberta
English

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, see the Our Legal System Information Page.

If you plan on representing yourself in court, you will also need to know about “case law.” In general, “case law” refers to the idea that it is up to judges hearing individual cases to decide:

  1. the exact meaning of the words in the laws (called “interpretation”); and
  2. how that meaning applies to the people in those cases (called “application”).

This means that what happens in other cases can affect what happens in your case. It also means that there are cases decided before that govern how cases are decided now. For more information on case law, see the Our Legal System Information Page and the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

The following resource lists some of the leading cases in family law.

What if another province or country is involved? (“Jurisdiction” matters)

What is “jurisdiction”?

This term refers to the right or ability of a government or a court to make decisions about things.

In terms of government, “jurisdiction” refers to a particular government’s right, power, or authority to make laws.

  • The Government of Canada has “federal jurisdiction”—the laws the Government of Canada makes apply to everyone in Canada.
  • The provinces and territories of Canada have “provincial jurisdiction”—the laws those governments make apply only within that province or territory.

Similarly, governments of other countries make laws that generally only apply in their geographic area.

In terms of the court system, “jurisdiction” is also used to describe a particular court’s authority to deal with an issue. In general:

  • courts cannot make orders using laws that are not in their jurisdiction; and
  • courts cannot hear a matter about a person who is not in their jurisdiction.

Why does jurisdiction matter for child protection issues?

In general, courts can only use the laws that apply in the geographic area where those courts are located. A court in Alberta is meant to apply the laws of Alberta. It cannot simply decide one day to apply the laws of Newfoundland or of the Netherlands to the case it is considering. It has no jurisdiction to do so.

Also, people are governed by the laws in the geographic area where they live. A person who lives in Camrose, Alberta will be governed by:

  • Canadian federal laws;
  • Alberta provincial laws; and
  • the city laws passed by the City of Camrose.

A person living in Camrose cannot simply decide to be governed by the city laws of Moncton, the territorial laws of Yukon, and the federal laws of France instead.

In matters of child protection, various jurisdictions work together in many ways.

  • Alberta can step in (“intervene”) to protect children who are in Alberta, even if they do not normally live here. This can be done under Alberta laws such as the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act (CYFEA). The CYFEA is discussed in detail on this Information Page.
  • The governments of other provinces and territories can intervene to protect Alberta children who are temporarily located there. This is done under their provincial or territorial laws which are similar to the CYFEA.
  • There are parts of federal laws (such as the Criminal Code of Canada) that are meant to protect children across Canada and punish people who hurt them. For more information about that, see the “Legal rights & responsibilities of parents: An overview” section of the Having a Child Information Page.
  • There are international laws and agreements to protect children who are taken out of their home countries. For more information about that, see the “Child abduction (by a parent or guardian): Outside of Canada” section of the Family Breakdown & Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.
The Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act (CYFEA), Child Protective Services, and “intervention”: An introduction

The Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act (CYFEA) is a law that deals with the protection of children (called “child welfare”).

Child welfare includes “intervention” services. This is when the government gets involved in the care of the child. Intervention services are focused on the well-being of children and youth. They are meant to:

  • support families to be healthy; and
  • ensure children grow up in safe and nurturing homes.

Intervention services are provided by a branch of the Alberta government called “Child Protective Services” (CPS). CPS will investigate reports that a parent is not able or willing to ensure the well-being of their children. CPS will look for signs of child abuse or neglect. For more information about child abuse or neglect, see the Child Abuse Information Page.

Child intervention services are provided throughout Alberta by 10 Child and Family Services Authorities and 18 Delegated First Nation Agencies. See the following resource for contact information for all of these offices.

Interactive Child and Family Services
Government of Alberta
English

When a child is in need of intervention, CPS will do everything they can to support the family to allow the child to remain in the home. Throughout this process, the CYFEA guides the actions of CPS, and sets out the rights of the parents, guardians, and children.

However, sometimes it may be best for the child to be taken out of the custody of the parent or guardian. This can be temporary or permanent. Even in permanent situations, CPS tries to keep the healthiest possible family relationships. All of these decisions are based on the best interests of the child.

Tip

In child protection matters, parents and guardians have the right to have a lawyer. Things can happen quickly in these situations. You may want to consider getting legal help immediately. For more information about your options for legal help, see the “Legal help and other support for parents dealing with Child Protective Services” section below.

Be Aware

Child Protective Services only deals with cases where abuse is caused or allowed by a child’s parent or guardian. If you suspect a child is being abused by someone other than a parent or guardian, please call your local police.

For general information about the CYFEA, Child Protective Services, and intervention, see the following resources.

PDF Alberta's Child Welfare System
Canadian Child Welfare Research Portal
English


Web Children at Risk
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English

Web A Brief Overview of Child Intervention Services in Alberta
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Child Intervention
Government of Alberta
English

Web Child Protective Services
Government of Alberta
English


Web The Law and Welfare of Children: Intervention
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

Web Help for children and families
Government of Alberta
English
See the “Introduction to Child Intervention” video.

PDF Responding to Child Abuse in Alberta: A Handbook
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Child Intervention 101
Chinook's Edge School Division
English

Web Signs of Safety
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Child Intervention Practice Framework
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Enhancement Policy Manual
Government of Alberta
English
The CYFEA: When do children need protection?

Alberta’s Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act (CYFEA) gives a list of situations in which children need protection. The official term for this is “children in need of intervention.”

Situations that cause a need for intervention: The starting point

Under the CYFEA, there are 2 factors that must exist before it can be determined that a child is in need of intervention. They are:

  1. there are “reasonable and probable grounds” to believe that a child is in danger; and
  2. the “survival, security or development of the child” is being endangered.
Remember

There are other laws in Alberta that determine if a child is in need of protection. Under those laws, different requirements need to be met. For more information about these laws, see the section below called “Other Alberta laws that protect children.”

“Reasonable and probable grounds” to believe a child is in danger

In deciding if a child is in need of intervention, there does not have to be absolute “proof” that a child is being hurt. There only has to be reasonable and probable grounds that protection is needed.

This usually means that there is more than only a “suspicion” or an “honest belief.” There must be some credibility to the complaint. In other words, there must be some good reasons to believe it. Often, this includes looking at the “big picture” of the circumstances. For example: it would usually not be enough to require intervention if someone just saw one bruise once, or heard the guardians yelling only once.

Endangered “survival, security or development” of the child

Sometimes, accidents happen. A guardian may look away for a moment and a child might break an arm, or be temporarily lost. Similarly, adults sometimes lose their tempers and yell a bit.

The CYFEA is not meant to deal with such situations. Instead, it deals with situations that are more serious, and that occur on a regular basis. In other words, situations that are not accidental and as a result, are more likely cause serious long-term damage.

Intervention because there is no guardian

Under the CYFEA, a child is in need of intervention if there are reasonable and probable grounds to believe that the survival, security or development of the child is endangered because:

  • the child has been abandoned or lost; or
  • the guardian of the child is dead, and the child has no other guardian.

Intervention because a child needs protection from a guardian

A child may need to be protected from their guardian because:

  • the child is being neglected by their guardian;
  • the child is being physically abused by their guardian, or at risk of being physically abused; or
  • the child is being emotionally abused by their guardian.

As described just above, a child is in need of intervention if there are “reasonable and probable grounds” to believe that the “survival, security or development of the child” is endangered by their situation.

Protection from neglect by a guardian

A child is neglected if their guardian is unable or unwilling to:

  • provide the child with the necessities of life (such as food and shelter);
  • get the child essential medical, surgical, or other treatment that is necessary for the health or well‑being of the child (or allow the child to get this treatment for themselves); or
  • provide the child with proper care or supervision.

For more information about “neglect” is, see the “What is child abuse? What does it look like?” section of the Child Abuse Information Page.

Protection from physical abuse, or risk of physical abuse, by a guardian

A child is physically abused if their guardian harmed them on purpose and there is a serious and noticeable injury as a result. This includes:

  • a laceration (a deep cut or tear in the skin),
  • a contusion (a bruise),
  • an abrasion (a scrape),
  • a scar,
  • a fracture or other bony injury,
  • a dislocation,
  • a sprain,
  • hemorrhaging (serious bleeding),
  • a rupture of viscus (a bursting of an internal organ),
  • a burn,
  • a scald (a kind of burn caused by hot liquid or steam),
  • frostbite,
  • a loss or change in consciousness (how the mind works) or physiological functioning (how the body works), or
  • a loss of hair or teeth.

A child is sexually abused when a parent or guardian inappropriately exposes the 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.

Be Aware

Even if the abuse has not yet happened, a child is in need of intervention if there is substantial risk that the child will be physically injured or sexually abused by their guardian.

Protection from emotional abuse by a guardian

A child is emotionally abused if their mental or emotional functioning or development is impaired as a result of any of the following:

  • rejection of the child;
  • neglecting the child emotionally, socially, mentally, or physically;
  • not giving the child enough affection or mental stimulation;
  • exposing the child to domestic violence or severe “domestic disharmony” (severe family problems);
  • inappropriately criticizing, threatening, humiliating, or accusing the child;
  • inappropriate expectations of the child;
  • the mental or emotional condition of the child’s guardian, or of anyone living in the same home as the child; or
  • ongoing alcohol or drug abuse by the guardian or by anyone living in the same home as the child.

Intervention because a child needs protection from other adults (not guardians)

Sometimes a child is at risk of being hurt by an adult who is not their guardian. For example, this can happen if:

  • the guardian does not know what is going on; or
  • the guardian knows what is going on but may also be at risk themselves.

Under the CYFEA, these kinds of situations fall under the description of “a guardian being unable or unwilling” to protect the child from this other person.

Specifically, a child is in need of intervention if there are reasonable and probable grounds to believe that the survival, security or development of the child is endangered because the child’s guardian is unable or unwilling to protect the child from:

  • physical or sexual abuse;
  • emotional abuse; or
  • cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.

See the “Intervention because a child needs protection from a guardian” heading above for information about how physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse are defined.

Intervention based on specific situations described in other laws

Sometimes children are in danger because of certain situations they are in. These include:

  • being exposed to the drug trade;
  • abusing drugs themselves; or
  • being involved in prostitution.

For such cases, Alberta has other laws that determine when those children are in need of protection. For example:

  • the Drug-endangered Children Act;
  • the Protection of Children Abusing Drugs Act; and
  • the Protection of Children Involved in Prostitution Act.

These laws have different descriptions for when a child is in need of protection. However, Child Protective Services can take the same protective actions. For more information about these situations, see the sections below that start with “Other Alberta laws that protect children.”

More information

For more information about how the law defines “children in need of protection,” see the following resources.

Web Child Abuse
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Children at Risk
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English

PDF Responding to Child Abuse in Alberta: A Handbook
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Alberta's Child Welfare System
Canadian Child Welfare Research Portal
English

Web The Law and Welfare of Children: Intervention
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English


Web Child Intervention Practice Framework
Government of Alberta
English

Web Child Protective Services
Government of Alberta
English
The legal requirement to report children in need of protection

Requirement to report

Anyone who has reasonable and probable grounds to believe that a child is in need of protection, or might be in need of protection, must report it to Child Protective Services. This is required by 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.

When you report a child in need of protection, Child Protective Services will investigate the situation. For more information about what happens after a report is made, keep reading this Information Page.

If you think a child is in need of protection, 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

Protection for the person reporting

When you report suspected child abuse, your name and contact information will be kept confidential. This means that Child Protective Services will not tell anyone that it was you who made the report. Also, that information will generally not be used as evidence in any court proceeding that comes from investigating your report.

No action can be taken against you for mistakenly reporting child abuse and neglect, if you honestly believe the child to be at risk.

The only way you could get in legal trouble for reporting child abuse is:

  • if you knew the report was not true, but you were trying to get someone into trouble; or
  • if you report child abuse without any reason to suspect child abuse.

More information

For more information about reporting to Child Protective Services, see the following resources.

Web Children at Risk
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
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

Web Suspect Child Abuse
Government of Alberta
English

Web Child Abuse and Neglect: Other Places to Get Help
Government of Alberta
English

Web The Law and Welfare of Children: Intervention
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English
What happens after a report to Child Protective Services?

Every report to Child Protective Services is taken seriously. When a concern is reported, CPS may take several steps, including:

  • Intake
  • Investigation
  • Assessment
  • Intervention (including enhancement or apprehension)

This section describes these steps and when they may be taken.

Intake

The person who takes the call does the initial questioning. This is called “intake” or the “initial assessment.” This includes taking all the information required from the person making the report.

Investigation

The person who did the intake can then look further into the issue, or assign another person from CPS to look further into the issue. This is often called the “investigation.” It can include contacting people who know the child. For example: the child’s school, the family doctor, and other family members. These people are sometimes called “collaterals.”

The purpose of the investigation is to see if the child is in any danger. If the child is found to not be in any danger, the claim is “unsubstantiated” and will not go any further. In other words, the file is closed. For example, the intake worker may find that the complaint came from someone who is just trying to make trouble for the parent, such as a neighbour who is arguing with the parent, or an angry ex-spouse.

Be Aware

Even if the file is closed, the “record” of the report (including the decision) is not deleted. It can remain forever.

Assessment

If the investigation leads to information that causes greater concern, there will be a formal “assessment.” This can include interviewing the child.

Many of the above steps can happen without telling parents or guardians. This is to protect the safety of the child.

Intervention

At some point, the parents/guardians are informed. The timing will depend on the circumstances. For example:

  • The guardians may be told about the complaint almost immediately, and Child Protective Services may suggest entering into a “Family Enhancement Agreement” (see the “What the words mean” section above).
  • The guardians may be informed only after the child has been taken into government custody. This is called “apprehending” the child. For example: the child may have been taken from school.
  • The guardians may be informed when the police and a social worker appear at the child’s home to take the child into government custody.

The next steps taken by Child Protective Services will depend on how serious they believe the situation to be. For example:

  • If they think the child is probably not at risk, they will call the claim “unsubstantiated.” However, they still may have some concerns about the well-being of the child in the future. In this case, they might suggest “Early Intervention Services.” (See the “What the words mean” section above.) Many complaints are handled in this way.
  • If they are a little more concerned, they might choose to try a “Family Enhancement Agreement.” This is also a common solution.
  • If CPS has even more serious concerns, they can intervene in more intrusive ways. For example: taking the child into government custody.

It is important to understand how these decisions are made and how quickly things can change. See the 2 sections below that start with “How child protection works.”

More information

For more information about what happens after there has been a report to Child Protective Services, see the following resources.

PDF Alberta's Child Welfare System
Canadian Child Welfare Research Portal
English

Web Children at Risk
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English

PDF Responding to Child Abuse in Alberta: A Handbook
Government of Alberta
English

Web Children in Care
Government of Alberta
English

Web Child Protection
Edmonton Police Service
English



Web Safe Visitation
Government of Alberta
English

For information about how the child will be assessed, see the following resources.

Web Child Abuse and Neglect: Examinations and Tests
Government of Alberta
English

Web Child Abuse and Neglect: Treatment Overview
Government of Alberta
English
If someone reports you to Child Protective Services: What can you do?

When Child Protective Services gets involved with your family, their next steps will depend on how serious they believe the situation to be.

For example:

  • If they think the child is probably not at risk, they will call the claim “unsubstantiated.” However, they still may have some concerns about the well-being of the child in the future. In this case, they might suggest “Early Intervention Services.” (See the “What the words mean” section above.) Many complaints are handled in this way.
  • If they are a little more concerned, they might choose to try a “Family Enhancement Agreement.” This is also a common solution.
  • If CPS has even more serious concerns, they can intervene in more intrusive ways. For example: taking the child into government custody.
Remember

Child Protective Services is required to make sure that children are safe. They are doing their job.

Your “rights” at the time depend on the seriousness of the situation. However, you always have the right to a lawyer. Things can happen quickly in these situations. You may want to consider getting legal help immediately. For more information about your options for legal help, see the section below called “Legal help and other support for parents/guardians dealing with Child Protective Services.”

The child involved might also be able to have their own lawyer. For more information, see the “Legal help for children involved with Child Protective Services” section below.

For more information about what to do if you are reported to Child Protective Services, see the following resources.

Video Pt 1 Complaint about Child Abuse in Alberta
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English
This resource is made for an Aboriginal audience, but applies to everyone.

PDF Taking Control: Knowing your rights within the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English
This resource is made for an Aboriginal audience, but applies to everyone.

Web Children at Risk
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
Start at “What happens when someone has called Child and Family Services on my family?”

Video Child Protection
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.


For information about your rights related to privacy and access to information, see the following resources.

Web Privacy Considerations for Families Involved with Child and Family Services
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Enhancement Policy Manual
Government of Alberta
English
See “General Information” in Section 1.2: Releasing Information.

PDF Public and Media Access Guide
Government of Alberta
English
Start on p. 22.

The following resource is not available online. The link below will give you a preview of the article, and you can find the full article at libraries across Alberta. Please note that this article is a section in a whole book. For more information about using the libraries listed below, see the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

Book Procedural Fairness & the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act, R.S.A. 2000, c. C-12 (Article included in "Child Welfare")
Legal Education Society of Alberta
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here. Get the full article from a library: Alberta Law Libraries / The Alberta Library.
Legal help and other support for parents/guardians dealing with Child Protective Services

There are people and places that can help you work through your matters with Child Protective Services. Your first point of contact will be your local Child and Family Services caseworker. For contact information, see the following resource.

Interactive Child and Family Services
Government of Alberta
English

Legal Aid

If you have a low income, you may qualify for financial help to cover the cost of a lawyer and court fees through Legal Aid Alberta.

If you have a lawyer through Legal Aid, you will have access to the family resource facilitators (FRFs) who work at the Family Law Office. FRFs work as advocates for the parents along with the Legal Aid lawyer who is representing them.

Be Aware

Legal Aid is not free. If you qualify for a Legal Aid lawyer, you will get discounted rates and will be able to pay your bill over time without interest.

For more general information about the services offered by Legal Aid Alberta, see the following resources.

Web Services & Eligibility
Legal Aid Alberta
English

PDF Legal Aid Alberta: Services for Albertans
Legal Aid Alberta
English

Web Working with your lawyer
Legal Aid Alberta
English

Web Legal Aid
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

For more specific information, including what you will need to bring with you when you apply, see Legal Aid’s Common Questions.

Web Frequently Asked Questions
Legal Aid Alberta
English

Who is eligible for legal aid?

For more information about who qualifies for legal aid, see the Legal Aid Alberta eligibility guidelines. Even if you are unsure about whether you qualify, you can always contact Legal Aid for information about what services they can offer you.

Web Getting Legal Aid - Eligibility
Legal Aid Alberta
English

Web Legal Aid Alberta: Contact Us
Legal Aid Alberta
English

Community legal clinics

There are legal clinics throughout Alberta that provide representation to low-income clients. For example:

  • Edmonton Community Legal Clinic
  • Calgary Legal Guidance
  • Central Alberta Community Legal Clinic in Red Deer
  • Grande Prairie Legal Guidance
  • Lethbridge Legal Guidance

For more information about these clinics, see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

Resolution and Court Administration Services

Resolution and Court Administration Services (RCAS) is a group of programs and services offered by the Alberta government to help people resolve their legal matters. RCAS staff:

  • help you stay out of court when possible;
  • help with the court process and forms if you go to court; and
  • offer free or low-cost programs to help families with the legal system.

For more information about how RCAS can help you, see the following resource.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Duty counsel

If you have a court date and you do not have a lawyer, there may be “duty counsel” at the courthouse who can help you. Duty counsel are volunteer lawyers who will discuss your legal issue with you for free. Duty counsel can give you information, guidance, and advice before your appearance. They will help you with that court hearing only. In other words, they will not be involved with your case going forward.

There are no income restrictions to speak with duty counsel, but the service is limited. They are only at certain courthouses on certain days. Also, there may be many people waiting to speak with them. If you need to speak to duty counsel, make sure you get to the courthouse early. Check with your judicial centre to verify the times and days duty counsel will be available.

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

For more information about duty counsel, see the following resource.

Web Duty Counsel - Legal Assistance at Court
Legal Aid Alberta
English

Hiring a lawyer

You can also hire a lawyer to represent you. For information about finding and working with a lawyer, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

Other community organizations

There are other organizations that have support workers and advocates that can help parents/guardians who are dealing with Child Protective Services.

For more information about these organizations and the services they offer, see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page and the following resources.

Web Family Courtworkers
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

Web Help with Children's Services
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English
This resource is made for an Aboriginal audience, but applies to everyone.

Web Government Referral
Catholic Social Services
English
Be Aware

There are many smaller community organizations that offer help specifically for child welfare issues. For example, the Boyle Street Community Services and the Creating Hope Society in Edmonton, and the Calgary Women’s Centre. Call 211 for information specific to your community, or search the directory online.

Interactive 211 Alberta
211 Alberta
English
Court-ordered lawyers for child welfare matters

When a person does not qualify for legal aid, the courts may still order that a lawyer be appointed for that person. This may happen if:

  • their matter is very complex; or
  • the person would face very serious consequences if they are not successful in representing themselves. This is rare, but can sometimes happen in child welfare cases.

You may want to consider applying for a court-ordered lawyer if:

  • the government of Alberta has started a court application related to the protection of your child (or a child for whom you are the guardian);
  • you have been denied representation through Legal Aid Alberta; and
  • you cannot afford a lawyer.

The law about this option is found in “case law.” Case law is law made by judges deciding specific cases. The most important case dealing with this matter is New Brunswick (Minister of Health and Community Services) v. G. (J.). As a result, you may hear this kind of application called a “GJ application.” To read this case, see the following resource.


Be Aware

It is not common to have a lawyer appointed by a judge for non-criminal matters. You may want to consider getting legal advice about whether you should apply and what your chances of getting it would be. See the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

Generally, to be successful in getting a court-ordered lawyer, a person would have to show that:

  • the legal proceeding threatens their section 7 Charter right (the right to life, liberty, and security of the person) as a result of government action;
  • they cannot afford to hire a lawyer privately. This will include showing that the person has applied for legal aid and has tried to hire a lawyer privately, but cannot afford it; and
  • their case has merit. In other words, there are good reasons to grant the request.

For more information about making this request, see the “Applying for court-appointed counsel” section on the Process tab of this Information Page.

Legal help for children involved with Child Protective Services

Legal Representation for Children and Youth

Legal Representation for Children and Youth (LRCY) may provide lawyers for children and youth who:

  • are involved in child intervention matters;
  • receive intervention services under the Protection of Sexually Exploited Children Act;
  • wish to apply for an order under the Protection Against Family Violence Act;
  • have a child of their own that is subject to an application under the CYFEA;
  • are involved with the youth criminal justice system; or
  • are the subject of a Permanent Guardianship Order.

This is handled through the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate Alberta. There is no cost to the child for lawyer from LRCY.

Be Aware

Youths aged 12-18 can refuse the lawyer unless special circumstances apply. Children ages 0-12 cannot refuse a lawyer.

For more information, including how to request a LRCY lawyer, see the following resources.

Web About LRCY: Legal Representation for Children and Youth
Office of the Child and Youth Advocate
English

Web What is a Child and Youth Advocate?
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

PDF Legal Representation for Children and Youth: Policy Manual
Office of the Child and Youth Advocate
English


PDF Enhancement Policy Manual
Government of Alberta
English
See “Office of the Youth Advocate” in Part 1, Subsection 1.3 at pages 67-75. Also see “Legal Representation for a child / youth” in Part 1, Subsection 8.1.2 at pages 458-464.

Other legal help available

If LRCY denies the request for a lawyer, there are still options.

  • In low income situations, a guardian or the child (if they are mature enough) can apply for a lawyer from Legal Aid Alberta. For more information about that, including the cost, see the “Legal help and other support for parents/guardians dealing with Child Protective Services” section above.
  • A guardian or the child (if they are mature enough) can apply to the Court for a lawyer to be appointed. For more information about this, see the “Court-ordered lawyers for child welfare matters” section above.
  • The Children’s Legal and Educational Resource Centre (CLERC) also provides legal support and services for children and youth in the Calgary area. For more information, see the following resource.
Web About CLERC
Children's Legal & Educational Resource Centre
English
How child protection works: The “range” of interventions

The various interventions: An introduction

The Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act lists several different kinds of “interventions” that can happen when a child is in need of protection.

Some are of these interventions are not very “intrusive.” This means that they do not change the family’s life too much, or for too long.

Other interventions are very intrusive. This means that they can greatly affect a family’s life (including taking a child from the home). Sometimes these interventions are permanent. Some of these interventions may involve court orders. Some may be done by agreement.

The interventions are:

  • Early Intervention Services
  • Custody Agreements
  • Family Enhancement Agreements
  • Supervision Orders
  • Apprehension Orders
  • Temporary Guardianship Orders (TGOs)
  • Permanent Guardianship Orders (PGOs)

Each of these interventions is discussed below in its own section. However, before reading those sections, it is important to understand the overall function and approach of the CYFEA. Keep reading this section for information about that.

The interventions do NOT have a “starting point” or a particular order

People often think that Child Protective Services will always start with the less intrusive interventions first. This is not the case.

The interventions are not a “progression” of options. There is no starting point. When a report is first received, the intervention that is used will depend on the facts of the case. For example: some first-time reports will lead to Early Intervention Services. Others may lead immediately to a Permanent Guardianship Order. It all depends on how much danger the child is in, and how much protection they need. Decisions are always based on the needs of the child.

Similarly, there is no order. The intervention that is used will depend on the facts of the case. In some cases, Early Intervention Services is all that will be needed. In other cases, more than one intervention is needed. Sometimes, the next step may be a Family Enhancement Agreement. In other situations, the next step may be a Permanent Guardianship Order.

However, the more the guardians address the issues at the start, the better the chance that the interventions will remain less intrusive. Also, a family is more likely to have more intrusive interventions if they are involved in the child protection system more than once. This can be especially true if the pattern repeats itself often.

No matter what the situation, if the need to protect the child is great enough, there may immediately be intrusive interventions.

At any time, the type of intervention can change

Once Child Protective Services is involved with a family, they will work with the family to address the protection issues that have been identified. This is an ongoing process. But changes can happen quickly. If a child is in danger, more intrusive interventions can come very quickly.

On the other hand, if a family works with Child Protective Services and meets the obligations that were agreed to, less intrusive measures will be considered. And, if appropriate, Child Protective Services may choose to not intervene any further.

More information

For more information about the range of CYFEA interventions, see the following resources.

Web A Brief Overview of Child Intervention Services in Alberta
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Children at Risk
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
How child protection works: The “total time in care” time limits

The Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act (CYFEA) makes it clear that children have a right to stability. Children should not have to wait for years for their parents or guardians to solve the problems that are putting them in danger.

As a result, the CYFEA has time limits about how much total time children can be in temporary government custody.

Temporary government custody includes:

  • Custody Agreements
  • Custody Orders
  • Temporary Guardianship Orders (TGOs)

Temporary government custody does not include:

  • Early Intervention Services
  • Family Enhancement Agreements
  • Supervision Orders

After the “total time in care” limit has been reached, CPS must make more permanent arrangements for the children.

Child Protective Services must follow these legal time limits. This is true no matter what the circumstances. This means that the time limits can have a big impact for the parents or guardians who are involved.

If you are involved with CPS, you will want to remember these “total time in care” time limits. They determine how much time you have to resolve the situation that brought you to the attention of CPS. If the situation does not improve enough, once the ”total time in care” time limit has been reached, CPS may have no legal choice but to move to a more permanent care solution for your child.

Children aged 5 and under

For children aged 5 and under, the total amount of time that the child can be in government custody is 9 months. Once that 9 months is reached, CPS will start taking steps to ensure greater stability for the child.

Be Aware

If the child turns 6 during the 9-month time limit, the aged 6+ time limit applies (12 months).

With court orders, the 9-month time limit begins when Initial Custody in granted (see the “After apprehension” section below).

If the child still needs to be in government custody when the 9-month time limit is over, Child Protective Services will likely have to apply for a Permanent Guardianship Order.

In exceptional circumstances, one 6-month Temporary Guardianship Order may be ordered. After that 6 months is up, if Child Protective Services believes that the child still needs to be in government custody, the only step that CPS can take is to apply for a Permanent Guardianship Order. This is true even if the parent/guardian is showing signs of improvement.

After the 9-month time limit, Child Protective Services may take action that does not involve government custody. For example, there could be a Supervision Order put into place. This does not mean that the 9-month time limit is erased. Instead, if the child later comes back into government custody, Child Protective Services would likely have to apply immediately for a Permanent Guardianship Order.

A child may be in government custody for under 9 months, be out of custody for some time, and then come back into government custody later. In this case, the “clock” would simply start back up again.

For example:

  • A child was in government custody under a Custody Agreement for 6 months.
  • The child went back to the care of the parent for 13 months.
  • The child was placed back into government custody.
  • There would be only 3 months left before the time limit was reached.

This time will only be “reset” if there has been a long period of time since the end of the 9-month period (usually over 5 years).

Children aged 6 and over

For children aged 6 and over, the total amount of time that the child can be in government custody is 12 months. Once that 12 months is reached, CPS will start taking steps to ensure greater stability for the child.

With court orders,the 12-month time limit begins when Initial Custody is granted (see the “After apprehension” section below).

If the child still needs to be in government custody when the 12-month time limit is over, Child Protective Services will likely have to apply for a Permanent Guardianship Order.

In exceptional circumstances, one 6-month Temporary Guardianship Order may be ordered. After that 6 months is up, if Child Protective Services believes that the child still needs to be in government custody, the only step that CPS can take is to apply for a Permanent Guardianship Order. This is true even if the parent/guardian is showing signs of improvement.

After the 12-month period, Child Protective Services may take action that does not involve government custody. For example, there could be a Supervision Order put into place. This does not mean that the 12-month period is erased. Instead, if the child later comes back into government custody, Child Protective Services would likely have to apply immediately for a Permanent Guardianship Order.

A child may be in government custody for under 12 months, be out of custody for some time, and then come back into government custody later. In this case, the “clock” would simply start back up again.

For example:

  • A child was in government custody under a Custody Agreement for 8 months.
  • The child went back to the care of the parent for 13 months.
  • The child was placed back into government custody.
  • There would be only 4 months left before the time limit was reached.

This time will only be “reset” if there has been a long period of time since the end of the 12-month period (usually over 5 years).

More information

For more information about the CYFEA time limits, see the following resource.

PDF Enhancement Policy Manual
Government of Alberta
English
See “Total time in care” in Part 1, Subsection 5.1 at pages 221-223.
Early Intervention Services

Child Protective Services provides “Early Intervention Services” to help parents and guardians take advantage of resources that can help them. This program looks at the family’s situation to identify the most effective ways of helping the family through their challenges. The goal is to support safe and healthy children and families. This may mean providing some short-term services to a child and family, or referring them to get help from a community program.

Examples of resources include:

  • counselling for the parents;
  • enrolling the child in the Rainbows Program to deal with the effects of separation, divorce, and death;
  • educational courses to help address a specific issue; and
  • community parenting programs such as Parent Link Centres, the Positive Parenting Program (Triple P), and Family and Community Services (FCSS).

Your family can be connected to Early Intervention Services in different ways:

  • You may be referred through someone you know (such as your doctor, your child’s school, or a child care provider).
  • You may be referred as a result of a report to CPS.
  • You may ask to use the program yourself.

For many families, Early Intervention Services are all they need to help them parent, manage their child’s behaviour, or create a more stable home environment.

Remember

With Early Intervention Services, Child Protective Services does not have custody of your child. As a result, the CYFEA time limits described above do not apply to these services.

Using Early Intervention Services is strictly voluntary. This means that it is entirely your choice. There is no “supervision” by Child Protective Services. However, it is a good idea to show Child Protective Services that you are taking steps to address the concerns that have been identified. For example, you may want to keep proof that you attended counselling or registered for a session.

For more information about Early Intervention Services, see the following resources.

Web Early Intervention Services
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Prevention & Early Intervention
Government of Alberta
English

Web Family Centre - Programs
Family Centre Society of Southern Alberta
English
Be Aware

If you choose to ask for Early Intervention Services for yourself, it is important to understand that you are still involving the government. If your situation is worse than you think it is, you may end up with more interventions, even if you didn’t want them. As a result, you may want to look into getting community supports on your own. For information about where to start, see the following resources.


Web Financial, family and social supports
Government of Alberta
English

Web Parent Link Centres
Government of Alberta
English

Web Family and Community Support Services
Government of Alberta
English
Enhancement Agreements

This sections describes the 2 types of Enhancement Agreements:

  • Family Enhancement Agreements
  • Youth Enhancement Agreements

Family Enhancement Agreements

A Family Enhancement Agreement (FEA) is a formal written agreement between the parents/guardians and Child Protective Services (CPS). It is meant to encourage families to work directly with CPS workers and community programs to address the issues that brought the family to the attention of Child Protective Services.

Under an FEA, the child stays in the custody of the parents/guardians. However, the parents/guardians agree to take certain steps to help the family situation. The FEA has a detailed plan that outlines exactly what the parents/guardians will do to get the help they need. It also explains how and when CPS workers will supervise the situation.

An FEA is different from Early Intervention Services in several ways.

  • It is a more formal plan for getting help with the family situation. It is more than CPS just giving information about options that are available.
  • The parents/guardians agree to follow through on the plan and they are expected to complete the plan.
  • The parents/guardians are supervised by CPS.

Entering into a Family Enhancement Agreement is voluntary. This means you cannot be forced to enter into an FEA. Also, either the family or CPS can end (“terminate”) the FEA at any time. They would do so by putting it into writing.

Tip

Before entering into any agreement, you will want to consider getting legal advice. For more information about your options for legal help, see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

However, if Child Protective Services thinks that the situation is not being dealt with quickly enough and the child is not safe, they can try other forms of intervention. For example, they could go to court to get an Apprehension Order to take the child into government custody.

Remember

With Enhancement Agreements, Child Protective Services does not have custody of your child. As a result, the CYFEA time limits described above do not include the period of the Enhancement Agreement.

For more information about Family Enhancement Agreements, see the following resources.

Video Pt 2 Family Enhancement Agreement
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

Web Family Enhancement
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Enhancement Policy Manual
Government of Alberta
English
See “Family Enhancement Agreements” in Part 1, Subsections 5.2.1 at pages 224-227.



Youth Enhancement Agreements

A Youth Enhancement Agreement is a formal written agreement that is made between Child Protective Services and a youth aged 16 or over who is living on their own. A Youth Enhancement Agreement can be made whether or not the child has been in government custody. Like a Family Enhancement Agreement, it is meant to address the issues that brought the family to the attention of Child Protective Services.

For more information about Youth Enhancement Agreements, see the following resources.

Web Family Enhancement
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Enhancement Policy Manual
Government of Alberta
English
See “Enhancement Agreements with Youth (EAY)” in Part 1, Subsections 5.2.2 at pages 228-234.
Supervision Orders

In some circumstances, the Court may decide that a child should be in the custody of their parent/guardian, but that further supervision and protective services are required for the survival, security, and development of the child. In other words, without this further supervision and protective services, the child would be in need of protection.

Supervision Orders are most common after the child has already been involved in a more intrusive intervention (such as being placed in government custody) and there has been improvement. However, sometimes a Supervision Order can happen sooner. A common example of when a Supervision Order might be suitable is when there is at least one healthy parent in the home.

A Supervision Order will often contain terms and conditions that must be followed by:

  • Child Protective Services;
  • the parent/guardian; and
  • any other person living with the child.

There are many kinds of “conditions” that can be included in Supervision Orders. Which conditions are ordered will depend on the exact situation. The Court can order anything it thinks is reasonable in the circumstances. Common examples include:

  • regular drug testing;
  • attending Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings;
  • bringing the child to therapy;
  • not allowing certain people in the home;
  • regular visits with a family support worker; and
  • planned home visits.
Be Aware

Not obeying a Supervision Order is serious. The next step often involves removing the child from the home.

When a guardian (or other person living with the child) has not followed a term of the Supervision Order, a Director may apply for a review of the Supervision Order. Without hearing any new evidence, the Court can then:

  • renew, change, or extend the Supervision Order; or
  • make a Temporary Guardianship Order or a Permanent Guardianship Order about the child.
Remember

With Supervision Orders, Child Protective Services does not have custody of your child. As a result, the CYFEA time limits described above do not include the period of the Supervision Order.

For more information about Supervision Orders, see the following resources.

Web Children at Risk
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English

Web Supervision Orders
Calgary Child Protection Lawyers
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Child Abuse
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Enhancement Policy Manual
Government of Alberta
English
See “Supervision Orders” in Part 1, Subsection 5.3.2 at pages 268-272.

Web Court-Ordered Protection
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

Custody Agreements

This sections describes the 2 types of Custody Agreements:

  • Custody Agreements with guardians; and
  • Custody Agreements with youth.

Custody Agreement with guardians

A Custody Agreement is a formal written agreement between the parents/guardians and Child Protective Services (CPS) where:

  • the parents/guardians agree to have the child placed government custody; and
  • the child is removed from the home and is placed with someone else. This can be with a family member (kinship care), or in foster care.

Because the parents/guardians have agreed, there is no need to go to court and there is no court order. The parents/guardians can also have input into where the child goes. Whenever possible, CPS will try to find a healthy family placement.

The maximum time allowed for a Custody Agreement is 9 months.

In many cases, the parents/guardians can still spend time with the the child. This is sometimes called “access” or “contact.” However, this is only allowed if:

  • it is in the best interests of the child to have such contact;
  • it is not otherwise prohibited (for example, in some criminal cases);
  • the child agrees to the access (this is required for children over 12 and some mature children under 12); and
  • the parent consistently shows up for the access and follows the other terms of the agreement.

Entering into a Custody Agreement is voluntary. This means you cannot be forced to enter into a Custody Agreement. Also, either the family or CPS can end (“terminate”) the Custody Agreement at any time. They would do so by putting it into writing.

Tip

Before entering into any agreement, you will want to consider getting legal advice. For more information about your options for legal help, see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

Remember

With Custody Agreements, Child Protective Services has custody of your child. As a result, the CYFEA time limits apply. See the “How child protection works: The ‘total time in care’ time limits” section above for more information.

For more information about Custody Agreements with guardians, see the following resources.

PDF Enhancement Policy Manual
Government of Alberta
English
See “Custody Agreements” in Part 1, Subsection 5.2.3 at pages 235-241.

Web Voluntary Agreements
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

PDF Kinship Care Handbook: A toolkit for Kinship Caregivers
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 17.

Custody Agreement with youth

CPS can make a Custody Agreement with a youth who is at least 16 years old when:

  • the youth is living independently from their guardian;
  • the youth is in need of intervention; and
  • the survival, security, and development of the youth can be protected enough through the agreement.

These agreements:

  • cannot be longer than 6 months at a time; and
  • cannot be longer than 12 months in total.

For more information about Custody Agreements with youth, see the following resources.


PDF Kinship Care Handbook: A toolkit for Kinship Caregivers
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 17.

Web Youth FAQs – Family
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See “How old do I have to be to leave home?”

PDF Enhancement Policy Manual
Government of Alberta
English
See “Custody Agreements” in Part 1, Subsection 5.2.4 at pages 242-249.
Apprehension

What is “apprehension”?

To protect a child, Child Protective Services may take a child out of the care of the parents or guardians, and place the child in government custody. This is called “apprehension” or being “in the care of the Director.”

After apprehension, Child Protective Services is responsible for making all major decisions about the child and is legally responsible for the child’s well-being. While the child is in government custody, they are usually placed in the care of either:

  • a healthy family member willing to take the child (this is called “kinship care”); or
  • foster care.

In more extreme situations, the child may be placed in “Secure Services.” For more information about this, see the “Secure Services Orders” section below.

For more information about kinship care and foster care, see the Caring for a Child: Caregivers, Foster Care, & Kinship Care Information Page.

Apprehension can happen without warning

Many people think that they must be told in advance that Child Protective Services plans to place the child in the care of Director. This is not true.

Apprehension can happen without warning. Although it is not pleasant to think about, it makes sense. Remember, apprehension only happens when Child Protective Services thinks that the child is in danger. In other words, CPS thinks that the child’s survival, security, and development are not being properly protected by their parent/guardian. Sometimes, telling the parent/guardian that the child will be apprehended would place the child in even more danger. As a result, Child Protective Services has the power to apprehend without warning the parent/guardian.

However, not all apprehensions happen with no warning. In some cases, the families are already involved with Child Protective Services and know that apprehension may happen.

Apprehension can happen without a court order. The law usually requires Child Protective Services to get a court order before apprehending a child. This is called an “Apprehension Order” (see below). However, in urgent situations, Child Protective Services can apprehend the child without first getting an Apprehension Order.

What is an “Apprehension Order”?

An Apprehension Order is a court order that gives CPS the authority to take the child from the custody of their parent or guardian. To get an Apprehension Order, it must be shown that the child is in need of protection. An Apprehension Order can also be granted if a child who was in government custody has left or been removed from custody without the Director’s consent.

CPS can apply for an Apprehension Order with or without notice to the parents/guardians. In urgent situations, it is common for applications to be made without any notice. This is called making an “ex parte” application.

Applications for an Apprehension Order can take place in court. In more urgent cases, they can take place over the phone. Once Child Protective Services has the Order, they can apprehend the child. If necessary, they can involve the police and use force.

Is an Apprehension Order required?

In many cases, CPS can get an Apprehension Order (either with or without notice) before apprehending the child. Whenever is it is possible, CPS will apply for an Apprehension Order before removing the child.

However, in urgent cases, CPS can apprehend the child without first getting an order. The parent/guardian may know it is happening, or may not know. For example:

  • they may be present when it happens; or
  • the child may be picked up from school or daycare.

Notice of apprehension after it has happened

Parents/guardians must be notified of the apprehension if:

  • they did not know about the apprehension before it took place; or
  • they learned about it while it was taking place.

This notice can be oral, or it can be in writing.

The parent/guardian will also be told about:

  • the reasons for the apprehension;
  • what kind of order will be asked for next (for example: a Supervision Order, a Temporary Guardianship Order, or a Permanent Guardianship Order); and
  • how to contact Legal Aid.
Be Aware

After a child has been apprehended, there are more steps that Child Protective Services must take. The parent/guardian will also be told about those. For more information, see the “After apprehension” section just below.

More information

For more information about apprehension, see the following resources.

Web Children at Risk
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English

Web Child Apprehension
Calgary Child Protection Lawyers
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video Pt 3 Apprehension
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

Video Biological parents and apprehension in Alberta
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

Web What is Apprehension?
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

PDF Child Apprehension: What You Need to Know
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English


PDF Enhancement Policy Manual
Government of Alberta
English
See “Apprehension Orders” in Part 1, Subsection 5.3.1 at pages 260-267.
After apprehension: CPS’s next court applications (including Initial Custody Applications)

After a child has been apprehended, there are more steps that Child Protective Services must take.

Applying for the next intervention

If the child is not returned to the parent/guardian within 2 days of apprehension, Child Protective Services (CPS) must file an application for one of the following:

  • a Supervision Order (SO);
  • a Temporary Guardianship Order (TGO);
  • a Permanent Guardianship Order (PGO); or
  • an order returning the child to the custody of their guardian (with or without a Family Enhancement Agreement).

Although these applications will not be heard right away, the 2-day timeline ensures that parents/guardians know what CPS is asking for.

Be Aware

The process is a bit different if the child normally lives in another province or territory. In this case, CPS has 2 days to return the child to the parents/guardians or send the child to the child welfare authorities where the child usually lives. If they do not do one of these 2 things, CPS must apply for one of the options listed above.

During the 2 days, CPS will attempt to contact the parents/guardians. This contact may include discussions about what kinds of intervention might be best for the family. This can include discussions about the possibility of a Family Enhancement Agreement or a Custody Agreement (instead of an SO, TGO, or PGO).

What CPS applies for (or agrees to) will depend on the situation, including:

  • the level of danger;
  • the level of cooperation by the parents/guardians; and
  • above all, the best interests of the child.

If CPS plans to apply for a Temporary Guardianship Order or Permanent Guardianship Order, they must make an “Initial Custody” application (if they did not already do so as part of the Apprehension Order).

Applying for “Initial Custody”

If Child Protective Services wants to apply for a Temporary Guardianship Order (TGO), or Permanent Guardianship Order (PGO), they must also apply for an “Initial Custody” order.

Initial Custody refers to who should have care and control of the child until the decision about the TGO or PGO is made. Whenever possible, the Initial Custody Application will be heard no later than 10 days after the apprehension. However, sometimes hearings need to be rescheduled. This is called being “adjourned.” The total time of adjournment cannot be more than 42 days from the date the matter is first in court.

Again, during the time before the court hearing, CPS will attempt to contact the parents/guardians. This contact may include discussions about what kinds of intervention might be best for the family. This can include discussions about the possibility of a Family Enhancement Agreement or a Custody Agreement (instead of an SO, TGO, or PGO). Also, parents/guardians can use this time to start addressing the issues that brought them the attention of CPS.

What CPS applies for (or agrees to) will depend on the situation, including:

  • the level of danger;
  • the level of cooperation by the parents/guardians; and
  • above all, the best interests of the child.

Before the Initial Custody hearing, CPS and the parents may reach an agreement. If this happens:

  • the Initial Custody application can be withdrawn; or
  • both the Initial Custody application and the TGO/PGO application can be withdrawn. This only happens if the parents/guardians show a great deal of cooperation and improvement in this time.

If the Initial Custody hearing goes ahead, the Court can order one of two things:

  • the child be placed in government custody; or
  • the child can be returned to the parent/guardian until the TGO or PGO application has been dealt with.

If the Court awards custody to the Director, it will likely describe any access that is granted to the parent/guardian before the TGO or PGO hearing. CPS must continue to meet with the family to try to work out a plan that will help with the goal of eventually returning the child to the parent/guardian.

More information

For more information about Initial Custody applications, see the following resources.

Web Initial Custody Hearings
Calgary Child Protection Lawyers
English
This is a private source.Learn more here.

Web A Brief Overview of Child Intervention Services in Alberta
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See “Court Orders.”

Web Child Welfare Representation
Sonja Lusignan Professional Corporation
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

PDF Enhancement Policy Manual
Government of Alberta
English
See “Application Following an Apprehension” in Part 1, Subsection 5.3.1 at page 6.
Temporary Guardianship Orders

What is a Temporary Guardianship Order?

A Temporary Guardianship Order (TGO) is given when the Court believes that:

  • a child is in need of protection; and
  • the child is at risk if they remain in the custody of their current guardian.

However, the Court must also believe that either:

  • the child will be returned within a reasonable time to the custody of their guardian; or
  • the child is at least 16 years old and may be able to live independently.

With a TGO, the Director becomes a joint guardian of the child. This means that the parents/guardians may still be consulted for major decisions. However, they do not have to be. Under a TGO, the Director has the final responsibility for the child. The Director will make all final decisions based on what they feel is in the best interests of the child. Also, the parent/guardian may be required to pay child support to the Director.

While the TGO is in place, the guardian or any other person living in the home may be required to have a parenting or psychological assessment.

Usually, a TGO can only last for a total of:

  • 6 months if the child is under 6 years old; or
  • 9 months if the child is 6 years of age or older.

These time periods can be extended by the Court if there are good reasons to do so.

Access to the child during a TGO

While the TGO is in place, the parent/guardian may be allowed to have access to the child. Access can be:

  • in person (supervised or unsupervised);
  • on the phone;
  • in writing; or
  • electronically (such as through Skype).

At first, the type of access is decided by the Director and can be negotiated through agreement. If the parent/guardian cannot reach an agreement with the Director, they can apply to the Court. The Court’s decision will be based on what is in the best interests of the child.

If the child is 12 years of age or older, they will be asked if they consent to the access. Children under age 12 may also be asked for their input, if the Court finds them to be mature enough to give input.

Other people can apply for access as well. For example, the child (if he or she is at least 12 years old), and any other person who the child has had a significant relationship with.

Complaining about a decision of the Director during a TGO

While the TGO is in place, a parent/guardian can make a complaint about a decision of the Director by asking for an “Administrative Review.” For more information about that, see the “Administrative Reviews of decisions under the CYFEA” section below.

More information

For more information about Temporary Guardianship Orders, see the following resources.

Web Children at Risk
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English

Web Temporary Guardianship Orders
Calgary Child Protection Lawyers
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Child Abuse
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Court-Ordered Protection
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English


PDF Enhancement Policy Manual
Government of Alberta
English
See “Temporary Guardianship Orders” in Part 1, Subsection 5.3.3 at pages 273-279.
Permanent Guardianship Orders

What is a Permanent Guardianship Order?

A Permanent Guardianship Order (PGO) makes the Director the sole guardian of the child. A PGO is given when the Court believes that it is unlikely that the child can be returned to the custody of other parent/guardian within a reasonable time. In other words, the Court believes that the survival, security, and development of a child will not be properly protected by their guardian. A PGO is not applied for lightly and is not usually asked for until other options have failed.

In the time between the application date and the hearing date, Child Protective Services will still work on a plan for the possibility of returning the child to the parent/guardian. This is called “concurrent” planning. The parent/guardian is told what they must do to have a chance of changing the application. Child Protective Services will continue to try to help the parent/guardian to achieve these goals. If the goals are achieved before the hearing date, the application could be changed to an application for a Temporary Guardianship Order or a Supervision Order.

A PGO is intended to be permanent. However, it is possible for Child Protective Services to apply to terminate a PGO. To do that, the Director must be satisfied that the child should be returned to the custody of the parent/guardian. This would only happen if the parent/guardian has solved all of the issues that brought the family to the attention of CPS in the first place. It must also be in the best interests of the child. For example, if a lot of time has passed and the child would do better without another disruption, even solving the problems might not be enough for the parent/guardian to regain custody. Instead, CPS might just encourage the parent/guardian to have a closer relationship with the child.

How long a Permanent Guardianship Order stays in effect

A Permanent Guardianship Order remains in effect until one of the following things happens:

  • the order is terminated by the Court (see the “Parents/former guardians applying to end a Permanent Guardianship Order” section below);
  • someone is granted a Private Guardianship Order (see the “Applying for Private Guardianship of a child in care” section below);
  • someone adopts the child;
  • the child turns 18 years old; or
  • the child gets married.

Access to the child during a PGO

At first, the type of access is decided by the Director and can be negotiated through agreement. If the parent/guardian cannot reach an agreement with the Director, they can apply to the Court. The Court’s decision will be based on what is in the best interests of the child.

If the child is 12 years of age or older, they will be asked if they consent to the access. Children under age 12 may also be asked for their input, if the Court finds them to be mature enough to give input.

Other people can apply for access as well. For example, the child (if he or she is at least 12 years old), and any other person who the child has had a significant relationship with.

The Court will also consider whether access may interfere with any potential adoption. If the Court decides that access could interfere with an adoption, it can deny access.

Appealing a PGO

After a PGO has been granted, there is a 30-day appeal period. An “appeal” is a formal process of asking a higher Court to change the original Order. Appealing PGO is very difficult. For more information about this, see the “Appeals to the Court of Queen’s Bench under the CYFEA” section below.

More information

For more information about Permanent Guardianship Orders, see the following resources.

Web Children at Risk
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English

Video A New Hope: Applying to Terminate a PGO (Alberta)
Native Counselling Services of Alberta (via YouTube)
English

Audio Sacred Circle
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English
Choose “Applying To Terminate a Permanent Guardianship Order.”

Web Permanent Guardianship Orders
Calgary Child Protection Lawyers
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.


Web Child Abuse
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Court-Ordered Protection
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

PDF Enhancement Policy Manual
Government of Alberta
English
See “Permanent Guardianship Orders” in Part 1, Subsection 5.3.4 at pages 280-286.
Permanent Guardianship Agreements

A Permanent Guardianship Agreement (PGA) is an agreement between the parents/guardians and Child Protective Services (CPS). In this agreement:

  • the parents/guardians agree to place the child in permanent government custody; and
  • CPS becomes the sole guardian of the child.

A PGA can be made when:

  • a child has been in the custody of CPS for less than 6 months;
  • all guardians are able to enter the agreement (this is also called having the “capacity” to enter the agreement); and
  • all guardians are willing to enter the agreement.

Oncea PGA is made, the plan is to place the child into an adoptive home as soon as possible.

However, the guardian(s) who signed the agreement have 10 days to ask to end the agreement. Specifically, within 10 days of the date of the PGA:

  • the guardians can ask CPS to end the agreement; or
  • a person claiming to be the parent of the child (but who did not sign the PGA) can apply to the Court for an order to end the PGA.
Be Aware

Signing a PGA is a very serious legal step. If you are thinking about doing this, consider getting legal advice. For more information about your options for legal help, see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

For more information about PGAs, see the following resources.

Web Voluntary Agreements
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

PDF Enhancement Policy Manual
Government of Alberta
English
See “Permanent Guardianship Agreement” in Part 1, Subsection 5.2.5 at pages 250-253.
Secure Services Orders

What is a Secure Services Order?

A Secure Services Order is a court order that allows Child Protective Services to keep a child in a “secure services facility” for a period of 5 days or less. This is called “confinement.” The time is used to stabilize and assess the child. During that time, Child Protective Services creates a plan of care for when the child comes out of the facility.

Secure Service Orders are not used that often. The most common situations for using them are when a child is involved with drugs or prostitution.

A Court will grant a Secure Services Order if it finds that:

  • the child is in a condition that presents an immediate danger;
  • the confinement is necessary to stabilize and assess the child; and
  • less intrusive measures are not available.

The Director can apply for another 5-day confinement period if:

  • more time is needed to stabilize the child; or
  • more time is needed to assess the child and prepare a plan of care.

In total, a Secure Services Order may be in place for a maximum of 20 days.

A Secure Services Order can only be ordered for a child who is:

  • in the custody of CPS;
  • subject to a Supervision Order, Temporary Guardianship Order, or Permanent Guardianship Order; or
  • subject to a Family Enhancement Agreement.

If the child is subject to a Supervision Order, a Custody Agreement, or a Family Enhancement Agreement, the Director must have the written consent of the child’s guardian before applying for a Secure Services Order.

Every child who is the subject of a Secure Services Order automatically is assigned their own lawyer. This is done through the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate. For more information about these lawyers, see the “Legal help for children involved with Child Protective Services” section above.

Getting a review of a Secure Services Order

A guardian, the child, or CPS can apply to the Court for a review of a Secure Services Order.

  • A guardian or the child can apply only once during the period of the Order, and once during the renewal of the Order (if there is a renewal).
  • CPS can apply at any time during the period of the Order or renewal (if there is one).

The hearing should happen no more than 3 days after the application is filed.

The parties who did not apply are notified at least one day before the hearing.

For more information about applying for a review a Secure Services Order, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

More information

For more general information about Secure Services Orders, see the following resources.

Web Children at Risk
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English

PDF Enhancement Policy Manual
Government of Alberta
English
See “Secure Services” in Part 1, Subsection 5.4 at pages 311-332.
Ways to address CPS decisions and Court orders: An introduction

When Child Protective Services (CPS) or the Court makes a decision about your child, it can be difficult to know what to do, or what your options are. This section introduces your options. Each option is described in more detail in its own section below.

Remember

If your child is in the temporary custody of CPS, there are time limits to how long that can last. If the issues that brought you to the attention of CPS are not properly addressed within the time limits, CPS may apply for permanent guardianship of your child. See the “How child protection works: The ‘total time in care’ time limits” section above for more information.

Working with CPS

Once Child Protective Services is involved with a family, they will work with the family to address the protection issues that have been identified. This is an ongoing process. But changes can happen quickly. If a child is in danger, more intrusive interventions can come very quickly.

On the other hand, if a family works with Child Protective Services and meets the obligations that were agreed to, less intrusive measures will be considered. If appropriate, Child Protective Services may choose to not intervene any further.

Working with CPS means that you:

  • do all that you can to solve the issues that brought you to the attention of CPS; and
  • try to resolve any disagreements directly with CPS. This can be done through “informal dispute resolution” or the Child and Family Services Mediation Program. Both of these are described in detail in their own sections below.

Administrative Reviews and Administrative Appeals

An Administrative Review is an internal review and formal dispute resolution process for certain decisions. In other words, the decision that was made will be reviewed by other staff members from CPS.

Once the Administrative Review is complete and a decision is made, you may be able to appeal that decision to an internal Appeal Panel. An "appeal" is a formal process of asking a higher decision maker to change the original decision.

Some decisions made under the CYFEA must have an Administrative Review before they can be appealed to an Appeal Panel. Other kinds of decisions can go directly to an Appeal Panel.

Be Aware

Administrative Reviews and Administrative Appeals can take time—sometimes longer than the period of the decision that is being reviewed. Parents/guardians will want to think about how much effort these processes take, and how it affects their efforts to address the issues that brought them to the attention of CPS in the first place.

Reviews by the Court

In certain circumstances, the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act allows for parents, former guardians, or the child to ask the Provincial Court to review a CYFEA order. For more information, see the “Reviews by the Provincial Court” section below.

Appeals to the Court

Any Provincial Court order or Appeal Panel decision can be appealed to the Court of Queen’s Bench within 30 days of the Order or decision being made. An "appeal" is a formal process of asking a higher Court to change the original Order. For more information, see the “Appeals to the Court of Queen’s Bench” section below.

Informal dispute resolution

Often, the best solutions are the ones worked out between the parties themselves. As a result, CPS tries to resolve issues cooperatively, respectfully, fairly, and efficiently.

At all stages of child intervention, informal dispute resolution is available. The first step is to talk to the caseworker.

There are also informal processes in place that may include:

  • a discussion with a supervisor, manager, or higher official;
  • family group conferencing; and
  • mediation.

After attempting any informal dispute resolution, you will be told about the decision, both verbally and in writing (for example, in a letter or e-mail).

You do not have to use informal dispute resolution. You can instead go directly to Administrative Review or an appeal. However, using informal processes first to try to deal with issues does not limit you in any way from later using Administrative Reviews and appeals.

For more information, see the following resource.

PDF Enhancement Policy Manual
Government of Alberta
English
See section 1.4 at page 76.
Child and Family Services Mediation Program

A “contested application” under the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act is a court application made against the guardians’ will. In other words, the guardians do not want Child Protective Services involved with their family.

In these cases, the guardians are automatically referred to the Child and Family Services Mediation Program. Mediation gives the parties an opportunity to talk about important issues in a safe environment. The process also helps to improve communication between all parties.

This mediation can help develop a plan about how decisions will be made. This may reduce the time that the children are in care. It may also help to avoid going to court.

Be Aware

Mediation can also be used in other situations where Child Protective Services is involved, even if the matter has not gone to court. The caseworker, the parties, or their lawyer may contact Resolution and Court Administration Services directly.

For more information, see the following resources.

PDF Mediation Program
Government of Alberta
English

Web Children's Services Mediation Program
Government of Alberta
English
Administrative Reviews of decisions under the CYFEA

An Administrative Review is an internal review and formal dispute resolution process for certain decisions. In other words, the decision that was made will be reviewed by other staff members from CPS.

Some decisions made under the CYFEA must have an Administrative Review before they can be appealed to an Appeal Panel. For a list of what these are, see the following resource.

Other kinds of decisions can go directly to an Appeal Panel.

You must request an Administrative Review in writing within 30 days of the decision. The review will then be completed within 15 calendar days of CPS receiving the request. This cannot be extended.

Tip

Before asking for an Administrative Review, you may want to speak to a lawyer to determine if your circumstances are appropriate for a review. For more information about your options for legal help, see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

In an Administrative Review, CPS will gather 3 supervisors or managers from other CPS offices to review the file. These reviewers do not know anything about the case. They will then review the decision and decide whether or not it was reasonable. The panel can then either confirm the decision, or change it. The applicant receives the decision in writing.

Be Aware

This process takes time—sometimes longer than the period of the decision that is being reviewed. Parents/guardians will want to think about how much effort these reviews and appeals take, and how it affects their efforts to address the issues that brought them to the attention of CPS in the first place.

See the following resources for more information about Administrative Reviews, including:

  • what kinds of decisions can be reviewed;
  • who can request an Administrative Review;
  • the policies and processes that will be followed; and
  • timelines.

Web Administrative Review
Calgary Child Protection Lawyers
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

PDF Enhancement Policy Manual
Government of Alberta
English
See subsection 1.4.1 at page 78-85.

For more detailed information, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Be Aware

Once the Administrative Review is complete and a decision is made, it may be possible to appeal that decision to an Appeal Panel. For more information, see the “Appeals to an Appeal Panel for decision made under the CYFEA” section below.

Appeals to an Appeal Panel for decision made under the CYFEA

An Appeal Panel hearing is a formal dispute resolution option that can be used for some decisions. For a list of what these are, see the following resource.

To make an appeal, you must fill out a Notice of Appeal form within the timelines. The exact timelines depend on what has already happened in your case. An Appeal Panel may confirm, change, or reverse the decision being appealed.

Tip

Before appealing to the Appeal Panel, you may want to speak to a lawyer to determine if your circumstances are appropriate for a review. For more information about your options for legal help, see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

Be Aware

This process takes time—sometimes longer than the period of the decision that is being appealed. Parents/guardians will want to think about how much effort these appeals take, and how it affects their efforts to address the issues that brought them to the attention of CPS in the first place.

See the following resources for more information, including:

  • what kinds of decisions can be appealed to an Appeal Panel (including those that can be appealed without first going to Administrative Review);
  • what kinds of decisions cannot be appealed to an Appeal Panel;
  • who can make the appeal;
  • the policies and processes that will be followed; and
  • timelines.


PDF Enhancement Policy Manual
Government of Alberta
English
See subsection 1.4.2 at page 86-93.

For more detailed information, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Reviews by the Provincial Court

In certain circumstances, the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act allows for parents, former guardians, or the child to ask the Provincial Court to review a CYFEA order.

This section briefly describes when this may be possible. For detailed information about asking the Provincial Court to review a CYFEA order, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Supervision Orders

If a child is the subject of a Supervision Order and the appeal period has expired,

  • a guardian of the child, or
  • the child (if the child is 12 years of age or older)

may apply to the Court to renew, change, or end the original Order.

This can only happen once during the term of the original order.

Be Aware

A Director may also apply for a review, and they can ask for a new Supervision Order, a Temporary Guardianship Order, or a Permanent Guardianship Order.

Temporary Guardianship Orders

A child may apply for a review of their Temporary Guardianship Order if:

  • the appeal period has expired; and
  • the child is 12 years of age or older.

In this review, the child can ask the Court to renew, change, or end the original order.

This can only happen once during the term of the original order.

Be Aware

A Director may also apply for a review, and they can ask for a Supervision Order, a new Temporary Guardianship Order, or a Permanent Guardianship Order.

Permanent Guardianship Orders

If a child is the subject of a Permanent Guardianship Order,

  • the child (if the child is 12 years of age or older), or
  • a person who was granted access in the Order

may apply to renew, change, or end the original Order.

Be Aware

A Director may also apply for this review.

Secure Services Orders

A guardian, the child, or CPS can apply to the Court for a review of a Secure Services Order.

  • A guardian or the child can apply only once during the period of the Order, and once during the renewal of the Order (if there is a renewal).
  • CPS can apply at any time during the period of the Order or renewal (if there is one).

The hearing should happen no more than 3 days after the application is filed.

The parties who did not apply are notified at least one day before the hearing.

Appeals to the Court of Queen’s Bench under the CYFEA

Any order made by the Provincial Court or a decision made by the Appeal Panel can be appealed to the Court of Queen’s Bench within 30 days of the Order being made.

Tip

Before appealing, you may want to speak to a lawyer to determine if your circumstances are appropriate for a review. For more information about your options for legal help, see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

Be Aware

This process takes time—sometimes longer than the period of the decision that is being appealed. Parents/guardians will want to think about how much effort these appeals take, and how it affects their efforts to address the issues that brought them to the attention of CPS in the first place.

See the following resources for more information about this process, including:

  • who can file an appeal;
  • what steps are involved; and
  • timelines to appeal.
PDF Enhancement Policy Manual
Government of Alberta
English
See subsection 1.4.2 at pages 94-97.

Audio Sacred Circle
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English
Choose “Children and Youth Appealing Court Orders.”

For more detailed information about the process of filing an appeal, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Parents/former guardians applying to end a Permanent Guardianship Order

In some cases, it may be possible for a parent/former guardian to apply to end (“terminate”) a Permanent Guardianship Order (PGO). The person who was a guardian just before the PGO was granted may apply to the Court to do this. This person is allowed to apply if, at the time of the application:

  • more than one year has passed since the deadline for appealing the PGO;
  • more than 2 years have passed since the last application brought by this same person (if any) has been resolved; and
  • the child has not been adopted.

If the Court hears the application, it may:

  • End the PGO and make the applicant a guardian again. To do so, the Court must be satisfied that the applicant is willing and able to take on the responsibilities of guardianship. Also, the Court must decide that it is in the best interests of the child to do so.
  • Make a Supervision Order along with an Order giving the applicant guardianship.
  • Dismiss the application (meaning the PGO would continue).

For more information about making this application, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Being a child in care

When children are in government care, they have many rights and services available to them. For example, they:

  • are assigned their own social worker;
  • are given legal representation (see the “Legal help for children involved with Child Protective Services” section above);
  • have a right to be heard; and
  • can sometimes ask for reviews and appeals of orders that apply to them (see the “Ways to address CPS decisions and Court orders” section above).

Children in government care can also get medical and dental care if needed. If the people taking care of the child refuse to provide required medical and dental care, the Court can make a treatment order.

More information about all of these rights and services, see the following resources.

Web Living in care: Adjusting to a foster home
Kids Help Phone
English

PDF Children have rights
Office of the Child and Youth Advocate
English

PDF Youth have rights!
Office of the Child and Youth Advocate
English

Web Children in Care
Government of Alberta
English

Video Your Voice Counts: Children and Youth Appealing a Court Order (Alberta)
Native Counselling Services of Alberta (via YouTube)
English

Video Children's Rights in a Foster Home
Native Counselling Services of Alberta (via YouTube)
English

Audio Sacred Circle
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English
Choose “Children and Youth Appealing Court Orders.”

PDF Enhancement Policy Manual
Government of Alberta
English
See “Services for children” in Part 1, Subsection 9 at pages 472-567. See “Children’s Procedural Rights” in Part 1, Subsection 1.8 at pages 114-118. See “Treatment Orders” in Part 1, Subsection 5.3.7 at pages 299-305.

Web Safe Visitation
Government of Alberta
English

Children also have access to advocates to help them have their voices heard. For more information, see the following resources.

Web Advocacy
Office of the Child and Youth Advocate
English

Web Investigations
Office of the Child and Youth Advocate
English
After leaving care: Support and information for young adults

Sometimes children are in government care when they turn 18 years old. In these cases, they may be able to enter into a Support and Financial Assistance Agreement with the Alberta government.

These agreements help young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 fully reach their independence.

For more information about Support and Financial Assistance Agreements, see the following resources.

PDF Enhancement Policy Manual
Government of Alberta
English
See “Support and Financial Assistance Agreement” in Part 1, Subsection 5.2.6 at pages 254-260.

Web Youth: How to Get Supports If You Have a Disability
Government of Alberta
English


PDF Where do we go from here? Youth aging out of care: Special report
Office of the Child and Youth Advocate
English

Children who were in care may also qualify for the Advancing Futures Bursary from the Alberta government. This bursary can help fund their continuing education. For more information, see the following resource.

Web Advancing Futures Bursary
Government of Alberta
English

Children also have certain rights to the information about their child welfare file. For more information, see the following resource.

Web Post guardianship services
Government of Alberta
English
Other Alberta laws that protect children: The Protection of Sexually Exploited Children Act

The Protection of Sexually Exploited Children Act (PSECA) recognizes that children involved in sex work are victims of sexual abuse. As a result, it allows police and caseworkers to remove sexually exploited children from dangerous situations.

This is usually done by applying for an “Apprehension Order.” An Apprehension Order allows the police or Child Protective Services to take the child, even if the child does not want to go. The child is then taken to a safe, secure facility, where they can be kept for up to 5 days in “confinement” (also called a “Confinement Order”).

However, the child can be taken without an Apprehension Order if a police officer or Child Protective Services has “reasonable and probable” grounds to believe that the child’s life or safety is in serious and immediate danger. If that happens, there must then be a court hearing to explain why the apprehension was needed. This hearing is called a “show cause” hearing. This must usually happen within 3 days of the apprehension. An adjournment (delay) of 2 days can be requested by either CPS or the child. The adjournment can be longer if the child agrees.

The child’s guardian(s) must be told about the apprehension.

Once the child has been apprehended, the child must be told about:

  • CPS’s reasons for the confinement;
  • the time period of the confinement;
  • the time and place of the show cause hearing (if there is one);
  • their right to ask the Court to review CPS’s decision to confine them;
  • their right to attend the show cause hearing (if there is one);
  • their right to contact a lawyer; and
  • the phone number of the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate, which will provide them with a lawyer for free.

If the child requests a review of the decision to confine them, the review must be held within one day of filing and serving that request for review. A 2-day adjournment can be requested by either the Director or the child. The adjournment can be longer if the child agrees.

During the confinement:

  • CPS has sole custody of the child and is responsible for the child’s care and well-being.
  • The child will receive emergency care, treatment, and an assessment.
  • CPS must begin to develop a long-term plan to help the child to leave sex work.

As a result of the assessment, CPS may decide that a longer confinement is needed. If so, CPS can apply to the Court for an extension of up to 21 days.

Orders that extend or renew confinement may be appealed to the Court of Queen’s Bench. This can be done by CPS, the child, or the child’s guardian. An appeal must be filed within 15 days after the date on which the Order is made or renewed.

If the Court refuses to make an Confinement Order or to renew a Confinement Order , the applicant may appeal that refusal to the Court of Queen’s Bench within 15 days after the date of the refusal.

Once a child is apprehended under PSECA, the child is deemed to have been apprehended under the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act (CYFEA). This means that it is exactly “as if” the apprehension had been under the CYFEA. As a result, all the additional interventions available under the CYFEA can also be used for the child.

PSECA also allows for follow-up help to children who have been apprehended. For example:

  • Children who are 16 or 17 years old can enter into an agreement with CPS to make programs or other services available to the child.
  • If a child is the subject of an agreement immediately before turning 18, CPS may continue to provide that child with services after he or she turns 18.

In addition, PSECA also allows for a restraining order against a person who harmed the child or encouraged the child to be involved with prostitution (or who is likely to do either of those things). Depending on the circumstances, this restraining order can be applied for by CPS, the child, or a guardian of the child.

Under PSECA, people who exploit children can also be charged with child sexual abuse and fined up to $25,000, jailed for up to 2 years, or both.

For more information, 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






PDF Protection of Sexually Exploited Children and Youth
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Enhancement Policy Manual
Government of Alberta
English
See “Protection of Sexually Exploited Children Act in Part 1, Subsection 6.4 at pages 379-380.
Other Alberta laws that protect children: The Drug-endangered Children’s Act

The Drug-endangered Children’s Act (DECA) recognizes that children being exposed to an adult’s involvement in serious drug activity are victims of abuse and need protection.

DECA states that a child is drug-endangered if:

  • the guardian exposes the child to a chemical or other substance used to illegally manufacture a drug;
  • the guardian illegally manufactures a drug in the presence of the child, or allows the child to remain where a drug is illegally manufactured or stored;
  • the guardian has a chemical or other substance that the guardian intends to use to illegally manufacture a drug where a child lives;
  • the guardian exposes the child to an indoor cannabis grow operation, or to the process of extracting oil or resins from cannabis plants;
  • the guardian involves the child in drug trafficking, or exposes the child to drug trafficking; or
  • the child has been or may be physically injured, emotionally injured, or sexually abused because the guardian is exposing the child to other forms of illegal drug activity.

Under DECA, police and Child Protective Services can remove children from the unsafe environment.

This is usually done by applying for an “Apprehension Order.” CPS or a police officer can apply to a Provincial Court judge or a justice of the peace for this order if they have “reasonable and probable grounds” to believe that a child is drug-endangered.

However, the child can be taken without an Apprehension Order if a police officer or Child Protective Services has “reasonable and probable” grounds to believe that the child’s life or safety is in serious and immediate danger.

When a child has been apprehended under DECA:

  • CPS has exclusive custody of the child; and
  • CPS is responsible for the child’s care and well-being.

If CPS does not return the child to the child’s guardian within 2 days of apprehension, the child is treated as if they were apprehended under the CYFEA. As a result, all the additional interventions available under the CYFEA can also be used for the child.

People who are charged with endangering a child in this way can be fined up to $25,000, jailed for up to two years, or both.

For more information, see the following resources.

PDF Enhancement Policy Manual
Government of Alberta
English
See “Drug-endangered Children Act” in Part 1, Subsection 6.3 at pages 370-378.

PDF Drug-endangered Children Act (DECA)
Government of Alberta
English

Other Alberta laws that protect children: The Protection of Children Abusing Drugs Act

The Protection of Children Abusing Drugs Act (PCHaD) allows guardians to apply for a “Protection Order” to help a child who is addicted to alcohol or drugs. This Protection Order can be applied for if the child’s use of alcohol or drugs is likely to cause significant psychological or physical harm to the child or to others.

What is a Protection Order?

A Protection Order is a court order that allows the child to be kept (“confined”) in a protective safe house. This can be voluntary or involuntary. In other words, the child may or may not agree to being confined in this safe house.

In the safe house, the child will be:

  • assessed;
  • treated for effects of detoxification;
  • given services to help stabilize the child; and
  • given treatment recommendations to follow up on after the child is discharged from the program.

The Protection Order only allows the child to be confined for one period of 10 days or less. In certain circumstances, this can be extended for a further 5 days.

Be Aware

A Protection Order is meant to be the last resort option when other options have already been tried and failed, or where other options may not be appropriate. The judge will expect that the Applicant has considered other ways of addressing the addiction that are less intrusive.

The purpose of the confinement is to:

  • help the child through detox; and
  • give the child the support needed to continue with voluntary treatment.

Families are encouraged to participate throughout the treatment process, including helping to choose counselling and treatment services for after the period of confinement is over.

What steps does the law require?

To apply for a Protection Order, the Applicant must first attend an information session with an Addiction Counsellor at their local Addiction Services office. For more information, see the following resource.

Web Addiction Services-AHS
InformAlberta
English

Then the Applicant must apply to the Provincial Court of Alberta. For more information about how to do that, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Alberta Health Services (AHS) must also be involved. The Applicant must:

  • notify AHS they are applying; and
  • notify AHS if the Protection Order is granted. At that time, AHS will inform the Applicant of the location of the protective safe house where the child should be taken.

Usually, the Applicant must then transport the child to and from the protective safe house. In Alberta, there are 4 protective safe house locations: Calgary, Edmonton, Grande Prairie, and Red Deer.

However, in certain circumstances, the Applicant can ask for a clause in the Protective Order that authorizes the police to apprehend the child and take them to a protective safe house. This is only possible if:

  • the child is no longer at home;
  • the Applicant does not know where the child is; or
  • there are safety concerns.

This clause may also allow the police to search for the child, and enter a place if they believe the child is there.

What are the rights of the child?

Once the child is taken to the protective safe house, the child is given the following information:

  • a copy of the Protection Order;
  • a “Request to Review” form;
  • a written explanation of their right to ask the Court to review the order;
  • a written explanation of their right to contact a lawyer, and the telephone number of Legal Aid Alberta; and
  • an explanation of what exactly the Protection Order says.

Reviewing the Protection Order

Any of the following people may apply for a review of a Protection Order:

  • the child who is the subject of the order;
  • a guardian of the child;
  • the Co-ordinator (this is the person given the power to administer PCHaD); or
  • any other person who is given permission by the Court to apply (this is called having “leave” of the Court).

After the application for review has been filed with the Court, the review must be held within 2 days, unless otherwise ordered by the Court.

At the review, the Court may make an order that:

  • confirms the original order;
  • changes (“varies”) the original order; or
  • ends the original order.

The Court can also:

  • extend the period of confinement by up to 5 more days; or
  • discharge the child before the confinement period is over.

Legal Aid Alberta provides duty counsel services to youth who have requested a review of the Protection Order. Duty counsel are volunteer lawyers who will discuss your legal issue with you for free. Duty counsel can give you information, guidance, and advice before your appearance. They will help you with that court hearing only. In other words, they will not be involved with your case going forward.

What happens after the confinement

Toward the end of the confinement period, the guardian will be given information about treatment recommendations to support the child’s transition out of the safe house. The guardian will have to pick up the child at the time of discharge, or make plans to have someone pick up the child.

AHS offers several services to help the child’s recovery process, including:

  • a voluntary residential program;
  • a support group for teens; or
  • a day treatment program.

More information

For more information, see the following resources.

Web PChAD Info for Parents
Alberta Health Services
English

Web Treatment Services for Youth
Alberta Health Services
English

PDF Enhancement Policy Manual
Government of Alberta
English
See “Protection of Children Abusing Drugs Act” in Part 1, Subsection 6.1 at pages 355-362.

Web Protection of Children Abusing Drugs Act (PChAD)
Parents Empowering Parents Society
English

PDF Youth - Court-Ordered Detoxification and Assessment (PChAD)
Wetaskiwin and District Victim Services
English



Criminal law and how it protects children

The criminal laws that govern the abuse of children are similar to laws that govern the abuse of adults. The criminal charges listed in the Criminal Code of Canada can be laid for a crime against an adult or a child.

However, the Criminal Code of Canada has sections that address abuse of children in particular. For example, in the Criminal Code of Canada:

  • sections 151-153, 155 and 170-172 deal with sexual offences against children and youth;
  • section 163.1 prohibits child pornography;
  • section 218 makes it a crime to abandon a child;
  • sections 280-283 prohibit the abduction of young persons;
  • section 215 makes it a crime to not provide the necessaries of life; and
  • section 43 says that you are only allowed to used “reasonable force” to discipline a child..

For more information about criminal laws that protect children, see the following resources.

Web Family Violence Laws
Government of Canada
English

Web Les lois sur la violence familiale
Government of Canada
French

PDF Parenting & Discipline
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

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

PDF Information Sheets
Boost Child & Youth Advocacy Centre
Chinese, English, French, Punjabi, Spanish, Tamil, Urdu
See “Guiding Children’s Behaviour.”

Video Parenting and Discipline
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
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
Family members applying to take care of a child in care: Kinship Care

Kinship Care is a program of the Alberta government. Through this program, children who have already come into the care of Child Protective Services are placed with extended family members. For example: children may be placed with grandparents, or another family member that the child already knows.

Kinship caregivers must be at least 18 years old, and be residents of Alberta.

Kinship caregivers cannot be the biological parents or anyone who has taken guardianship of the child.

The role of the kinship caregiver is to handle the day-to-day decisions related to the child. However, the child remains a “ward of the province.” This means that the Alberta government is the legal guardian of the child. All of the decisions related to the child are subject to the approval of the government. In other words, the government has the final say over these decisions.

See the following resources for more information about Kinship Care, including:

  • the requirements to be a kinship caregiver;
  • what is expected of you as a kinship caregiver;
  • the education, training, and financial help available to kinship caregivers; and
  • how kinship care is different from foster care and guardianship.
Web Kinship Care
Government of Alberta
English

Web Kinship Care: Frequently Asked Questions
Government of Alberta
English

Web Kinship Care: Financial Support
Government of Alberta
English

Web Foster Care: Financial Support
Government of Alberta
English
The “Current Compensation Rates” apply to kinship caregivers as well as foster parents.

Web Kinship Care
The Family Centre
English

Web Permanency
The Family Centre
English

Web Alberta Government Kinship Care 2015
ALIGN Association of Community Services
English


PDF Grandparents' Rights in Alberta
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
This resource was written for grandparents, but much of the information applies to other caregivers too.

Audio Podcasts
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English
Choose “Kinship Care” and “Grandparents Rights.”

PDF Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
Parent Support Services Society of BC
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Kinship care
Canadian Child Welfare Research Portal
English

PDF Enhancement Policy Manual
Government of Alberta
English
See “Kinship Care” in Part 2, Subsection 2 at pages 724-753.
Applying to be a foster parent

Foster Care is a program of the Alberta government. Through this program, children who have come into the care of Child Protective Services are placed in temporary homes with people they do not know. Children may stay in a foster home for only a few days, or many years.

Foster parents get financial help and training from the government. However, the amounts are different than for Kinship Care.

See the following resources for more information about the Foster Care program, including:

  • who can be a foster parent;
  • what is expected of you as a foster parent;
  • the education, training, and financial help available to foster parents; and
  • how foster care is different from kinship care and guardianship.
Web Foster Care
Government of Alberta
English

Web Becoming a Foster Parent
Government of Alberta
English

Web Foster Care: Frequently Asked Questions
Government of Alberta
English

Web Screening and monitoring foster parents
Government of Alberta
English

Web Foster Parents: Resources
Government of Alberta
English

Web Foster Care: Financial Support
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Entitlements of Foster Parents
Government of Alberta
English

Web Foster Care: Training and Support
Government of Alberta
English

Audio Podcasts
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English
Choose “Foster Care.”

Web Foster Parent Resources
Alberta Foster Parent Association
English

PDF Enhancement Policy Manual
Government of Alberta
English
See “Foster Care” in Part 2, Subsection 3 at pages 754-829.

PDF Transitioning from care: A guide for caregivers
Alberta Foster Parent Association
English
Applying for Private Guardianship of a child in care

A “guardian” of a child is a person who:

  • has the right to make decisions for a child; and
  • has the responsibility to care for that child by providing the “necessaries of life,” such as food and shelter.

In Alberta, every child must have at least one guardian. The Family Law Act sets out who is automatically the guardian of a child. In most cases, the parents are the guardians. When Child Protective Services gets involved with a child, the government may take over the care and control of a child.

There are time limits for how long a child can be in government care. (For more information, see the “How child protection works: The ‘total time in care’ time limits” section above.) If a child has reached this limit, the government will look for a more permanent guardianship solution.

Private Guardianship is one solution. It allows for someone who has been taking care of the child for more than 6 months to apply to the Court to become the guardian of the child.

If you want to apply for Private Guardianship, you will usually first have a home study. This will ensure the home is appropriate for the child. You will also need the consent of:

  • the guardian of the child;
  • the child, if the child is 12 years of age or older; and
  • CPS, if CPS is not the guardian of the child.
Be Aware

If CPS does not agree to your Private Guardianship application, you may be able apply for guardianship using the Family Law Act. This will be complicated. If this applies to you, talk to a lawyer about your options. See the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

For more information about Private Guardianship, see the following resources.

Web Private Guardianship
Government of Alberta
English

Web Supports for permanency
Government of Alberta
English


PDF Enhancement Policy Manual
Government of Alberta
English
See “Private Guardianship” in Part 1, Subsection 5.3.6 at pages 292-298. Also see “Private Guardianship” in Part 3, Subsection 11, at pages 1005-1006.

The following resource is not available online. The link below will give you a preview of the article, and you can find the full article at libraries across Alberta. Please note that this article is a section in a whole book. For more information about using the libraries listed below, see the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

Book Applications for Guardianship of Children in Foster Care (Article included in "Child Welfare")
Legal Education Society of Alberta
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here. Get the full article from a library: Alberta Law Libraries / The Alberta Library
Adopting a child in care

Children who are in the permanent care of the Alberta government can be adopted.

Families who want to adopt a child in government care must first:

  • have an “Orientation for Caregivers” training; and
  • have a home study report completed and approved. The home study report will be reviewed by the child’s caseworker.

The entire process could take 3 to 6 months to complete.

To begin the process, you must contact your nearest Child and Family Services Authority or Delegated First Nations Agency. For more information, see the following resources.

PDF Alberta's Waiting Children
Government of Alberta
English

Web Adoption Process
Government of Alberta
English

Web Supports for permanency
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Enhancement Policy Manual
Government of Alberta
English
See “Adoption” in Part 3, at pages 901-1064.
Death of a child in care

When a child who is in government care dies, the government has processes in place to investigate the death.

For more information, see the following resources.


Web When a child receiving services dies
Government of Alberta
English

It may be possible to sue the province for the death. See the following resource for more information.

Web Litigating Death in Care Cases in Alberta
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

You will want to speak with a lawyer if you choose to do this. See the Working with a Lawyer Information Page and the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

Aboriginal matters and on-reserve considerations

For Aboriginal families, all general provincial laws about child welfare apply. However, there are some differences in:

  • who provides the protective services on-reserve; and
  • exactly how services are provided to Aboriginal families.

On-reserve: Delegated First Nation Agencies (DFNAs)

The Alberta government recognizes the Aboriginal community’s role in child intervention services on-reserve. As a result, protective services for children on-reserve are delivered by Delegated First Nation Agencies (DFNAs) instead of by Child Protective Services.

A DFNA is a group of professionals that have the authority and responsibility to provide intervention services on-reserve. They provide culturally appropriate intervention services. There are 13 Delegated First Nation Agencies in Alberta.

DFNAs have all of the same powers as Child Protective Services.

For more information, see the following resource.

Web First Nation Agencies
Government of Alberta
English

Culturally relevant services

There are specific requirements for services to all Aboriginal children involved in the child welfare system.

For example:

  • Families are referred to court workers from Native Counselling Services of Alberta.
  • There must be a “cultural connection plan” for all child placements and adoptions. This plan must say how the child will remain connected to their culture.
  • Bands must consent to any adoption order.
  • Dispute resolution options include “family group conferences.” A family group conference is a collaborative circle process for families, courtworkers, and other community support groups. It empowers families to take action about the care and protection of children.

More information

For more information about organizations that can help Aboriginal families involved with the child welfare system, see the following resources.

Web Family Courtworkers
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

Web Help with Children's Services
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English
This resource is made for an Aboriginal audience, but applies to everyone.


For more information about cultural connection plans and family group conferences, see the following resources.
Video Raising The Spirit: Cultural Connections Plans for Aboriginal Children (Alberta)
Native Counselling Services of Alberta (via YouTube)
English

PDF A Sacred Circle: Family Group Conferencing
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

For more general information about Aboriginal families involved with the child welfare system, see the following resources.


Web The law and welfare of children
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

Video Pt 1 Complaint about Child Abuse in Alberta
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English
  
Video Pt 2 Family Enhancement Agreement
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

Video The Bear's Den - New Video Released about Grandparents Rights
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

Audio BearPaw Podcasts
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

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

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

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

For reports and studies about Aboriginal child welfare matters, see the following resources.

Web Aboriginal Children and Child Welfare Policies
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web First Nations Child Welfare in Alberta (2011)
Canadian Child Welfare Research Portal
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

PDF Enhancement Policy Manual
Government of Alberta
English
See “Aboriginal Children” in Part 1, Subsection 2 at pages 122-144.

PDF Voices for Change: Aboriginal Child Welfare in Alberta - Special Report
Office of the Child and Youth Advocate
English

PDF Child Welfare Law, "Best Interests of the Child" Ideology, and First Nations
York University
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.
LGBTQ families

The laws around child protection are no different for LGBTQ families than they are for anyone else. Your issues will be guided by the same laws and approaches described above.

Polyamorous families

The laws around child protection are no different for polyamorous families than they are for anyone else. Your issues will be guided by the same laws and approaches described above.

Process

If your family is involved with Child Protective Services, you may have questions about which steps you can take to resolve matters. See the sections below for information about:

  • Resolving disputes with Child Protective Services (CPS)
  • Applying for an Administrative Review of a CPS decision
  • Appealing a CPS decision to an Appeal Board
  • Representing yourself in court about a CPS decision
  • Asking a court to appoint a lawyer to help you deal with CPS matters in court
  • Applying for a Provincial Court review of a CPS Order (Supervision Order, Temporary Guardianship Order, Permanent Guardianship Order, or Secure Services Order)
  • Making an appeal to the Court of Queen’s Bench about a CPS decision
  • Applying to terminate a Permanent Guardianship Order
  • Applying in court for Orders under the Protection of Sexually Exploited Children Act or the Protection of Children Abusing Drugs Act
  • Applying to be a kinship caregiver, foster parent, private guardian, or adoptive parent of a child in government care

Choose the Law tab above for information about the law around child protection in Alberta.

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

This Information Page has information about the steps you may want to take if your family is involved with Child Protective Services in Alberta.

Tip

If you are just starting out with this topic, it’s a good idea to begin on the Law tab of this Information Page. There you will find basic information about what the law says, what the words mean, and other issues that will help you understand how to proceed. Once you have the basics down, you will be in a better position to learn about the steps involved in addressing your legal issues.

You are currently on the Process tab of this Information Page. For information on what the law says about child protection in Alberta, click on the Law tab above. There is also important information in the Common Questions and Myths tabs above.

Reporting a child in need of protection

Anyone who has reasonable and probable grounds to believe that a child is in need of protection, or might be in need of protection, must report it to Child Protective Services. This is required by 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.

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

For information about what will happen after you make a report to CPS, see the “What happens after a report to Child Protective Services?” section on the Law tab of this Information Page.

If someone reports you to Child Protective Services: What can you do?

When Child Protective Services gets involved with your family, their next steps will depend on how serious they believe the situation to be.

Your “rights” at the time depend on the seriousness of the situation. However, you always have the right to a lawyer. Things can happen quickly in these situations. You may want to consider getting legal help immediately. For more information about your options for legal help, see the “Legal help and other support for parents/guardians dealing with Child Protective Services” section on the Law tab of this Information Page.

The child involved might also be able to have their own lawyer. For more information, see the “Legal help for children involved with Child Protective Services” section on the Law tab of this Information Page.

Resolving disputes informally with CPS

If you have a dispute about a decision CPS has made about your child with Child Protective Services, you can try to address them informally. Often, the best solutions are the ones worked out between the parties themselves.

The first step is to talk to the caseworker. There are also other informal processes in place that may include:

  • a discussion with a supervisor, manager, or higher official;
  • family group conferencing; and
  • mediation.

After attempting any informal dispute resolution, you will be told about the decision, both verbally and in writing (for example, in a letter or e-mail).

There are no specific rules or forms related to informal dispute resolution processes in child welfare matters. You do not need to have a lawyer to take part in informal dispute resolution, but you can have one if you want to. There are also other organizations that may be able to help you understand the processes and give support as you go through them. For more information about organizations that may be able to help, see the “Legal help and other support for parents/guardians dealing with Child Protective Services” section above.

Applying for an Administrative Review of an internal decision made by CPS

An Administrative Review is an internal review and formal dispute resolution process for certain decisions. For more information about what it involves, see the Law tab of this Information Page.

Be Aware

This section has information about requesting an internal review of a CPS decision, not a review of a Court Order.

Some decisions made under the CYFEA must have an Administrative Review before they can be appealed to an Appeal Panel. For a list of what these are, see the following resource.

You must request an Administrative Review in writing within 30 days of the decision. The review will then be completed within 15 calendar days of CPS receiving the request. This cannot be extended.

Tip

Before asking for an Administrative Review, you may want to speak to a lawyer to determine if your circumstances are appropriate for a review. For more information about your options for legal help, see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

To ask for an Administrative Review of a decision, you must complete the following form and make 3 copies of it. This form will automatically download on your computer.

The 3 copies must be submitted to a Director within 30 calendar days of the date you were informed of the decision. You must include an explanation of the decision and the grounds for the review.

You do not need to use a lawyer to complete these forms, but you can if you want to. There are also other organizations that may be able to help you understand the process and give support as you go through them. For more information about organizations that may be able to help, see the “Legal help and other support for parents/guardians dealing with Child Protective Services” section above.

It is possible for you to go to the review, but you do not have to do so.

You should receive a written copy of the Administrative Review decision within 15 calendar days after you submit your form. If you do not receive a decision, this means that the original decision is confirmed.

For information about fairness in these processes (this is also called “procedural” or “administrative” fairness), see the following resource.

Web Administrative Fairness Guidelines
Alberta Ombudsman
English

If you then want to appeal the decision, you must file the Notice of Appeal form within 45 days of the date that you handed in the request for the Administrative Review. For more information about the process of appealing a decision, see the “Appealing a CPS decision to an Appeal Panel” section below.

Appealing a CPS decision to an Appeal Panel

An Appeal Panel hearing is a formal dispute resolution option that can be used for some decisions. For a list of what these are, see the following resource.

Be Aware

This section has information about requesting an appeal of an internal CPS decision, not an appeal of a Court Order.

Remember that some internal CPS decisions cannot be appealed without first going through an Administrative Review. For a list of what these are, see the following resource.

To make an appeal, you must fill out a Notice of Appeal form within the timelines. The exact timelines depend on what has already happened in your case. An Appeal Panel may confirm, change, or reverse the decision being appealed.

Tip

Before appealing to the Appeal Panel, you may want to speak to a lawyer to determine if your circumstances are appropriate for a review. For more information about your options for legal help, see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

For information about things to think about when deciding if you should file an appeal, see the following resource.

For detailed information about the steps, exact processes, and timelines involved in requesting an appeal, see the following resources.



PDF Preparing and Presenting Your Case – Director: Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act (CYFE Act)
Government of Alberta
English
This is written for the Director, but reading it will help you understand what to expect.



PDF Enhancement Policy Manual
Government of Alberta
English
See subsection 1.4.2 at page 86-93.

For information about fairness in these processes (this is called “procedural fairness”), see the following resource.

Web Administrative Fairness Guidelines
Alberta Ombudsman
English

The following resource is not available online. The link below will give you a preview of the article, and you can find the full article at libraries across Alberta. Please note that this article is a section in a whole book. For more information about using the libraries listed below, see the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

Book Procedural Fairness & the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act, R.S.A. 2000, c. C-12 (Article included in "Child Welfare")
Legal Education Society of Alberta
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here. Get the full article from a library: Alberta Law Libraries / The Alberta Library.
Appeals to the Court of Queen’s Bench under the CYFEA

Any order made by the Provincial Court or a decision made by the Appeal Panel can be appealed to the Court of Queen’s Bench within 30 days of the Order being made.

Tip

Before trying to apply for an appeal, be sure you are eligible to do so. For information on who can appeal and when, see the “Appeals to the Court of Queen’s Bench under the CYFEA” section on the Law tab of this Information Page. You may also want to speak to a lawyer to determine if your circumstances are appropriate for an appeal. For more information about your options for legal help, see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

For a detailed guide about all of the steps and how to complete your appeal, see the following resource.

There are many steps and forms involved in appeal a CYFEA order. Resolution and Court Administration Services can help.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

For more information about child welfare appeals, see the following resource, which is not available online. The link below will give you a preview of the article, and you can find the full article at libraries across Alberta. Please note that this article is a section in a whole book. For more information about using the libraries listed below, see the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

Book Appeals in the Child Welfare Context
Legal Education Society of Alberta
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here. Get the full article from a library: Alberta Law Libraries / The Alberta Library.

For general information about court processes in the Court of Queen’s Bench, see the Queen’s Bench Process tab of the Understanding the Court System & Processes Information Page.

Applying for a Review of a Protection Order under the Protection of Children Abusing Drugs Act

A guardian or the child can apply for a review of a Protection Order under the Protection of Children Abusing Drugs Act.

To apply, you must complete the forms listed in the following resource. Be sure you use the forms in the “Application to Review a Protection Order under the Protection of Children Abusing Drugs Act” section. Note that these forms may automatically download to your computer.

Web Protection of Children Abusing Drugs Act
Government of Alberta
English

The Notice and Request form is where you tell the Court what you are asking for.

The Affidavit is where you include the facts that the Court will need to see. The form has clear instructions to let you know what information the Court will want to see.

Tip

The “Guide for Applicants” listed on the same page has very useful information about how to complete these forms and what other steps you must take.

Applying to be a kinship caregiver or foster parent

To become a kinship caregiver or foster parent, you will need to contact a caseworker at Child and Family Services. The caseworker will give you the forms you need.

See the following resources for more information.

Interactive Child and Family Services
Government of Alberta
English

Web Becoming a Kinship Caregiver
Government of Alberta
English

Web Becoming a Foster Parent
Government of Alberta
English

Applying for Private Guardianship of a child in care

If you want to apply for Private Guardianship, you will usually first have a home study. This will ensure the home is appropriate for the child. You will also need the consent of:

  • the guardian of the child;
  • the child, if the child is 12 years of age or older; and
  • CPS, if CPS is not the guardian of the child.
Be Aware

If CPS does not agree to your Private Guardianship application, you may be able apply for guardianship using the Family Law Act. This will be complicated. If this applies to you, talk to a lawyer about your options. See the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

For more information about Private Guardianship, see the following resources.

Web Private Guardianship
Government of Alberta
English

Web Supports for permanency
Government of Alberta
English


PDF Enhancement Policy Manual
Government of Alberta
English
See “Private Guardianship” in Part 1, Subsection 5.3.6 at pages 292-298. Also see “Private Guardianship” in Part 3, Subsection 11, at pages 1005-1006.

The following resource is not available online. The link below will give you a preview of the article, and you can find the full article at libraries across Alberta. Please note that this article is a section in a whole book. For more information about using the libraries listed below, see the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

Book Applications for Guardianship of Children in Foster Care (Article included in "Child Welfare")
Legal Education Society of Alberta
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here. Get the full article from a library: Alberta Law Libraries / The Alberta Library.
Adopting a child in care

Families who want to adopt a child in government care must first:

  • have an “Orientation for Caregivers” training; and
  • have a home study report completed and approved. The home study report will be reviewed by the child’s caseworker.

The entire process could take 3 to 6 months to complete.

To begin the process, you must contact your nearest Child and Family Services Authority or Delegated First Nations Agency. For more information, see the following resources.

PDF Alberta's Waiting Children
Government of Alberta
English

Web Adoption Process
Government of Alberta
English

Web Supports for permanency
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Enhancement Policy Manual
Government of Alberta
English
See “Adoption” in Part 3, at pages 901-1064.

Provincial Court

Queen's Bench

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