When does Child Protective Services get involved with a family?

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.”

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.

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.

Child Protective Services will get involved with a family in the following situations.

  • The child has been abandoned or lost.
  • The guardian of the child is dead, and the child has no other guardian.
  • The child needs to be protected from their guardian due to neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or emotional abuse.
  • The child needs to be protected from another adult (who is not their guardian) because their guardian is unable or unwilling to protect the child themselves.
  • The child needs protection because of certain situations they are in. These include: being exposed to the drug trade, abusing drugs themselves, or being involved in prostitution.
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