Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What do I do if I think a child is being harmed or is not being cared for adequately?
  2. What is "reasonable grounds"?
  3. What if I don't report?
  4. Do I have to give you my name when I call in with a referral?
  5. What happens after I report?
  6. How old does my child have to be to be left alone?
  7. At what age can a child babysit?
  8. Can children of the opposite sex share a room/bed? If yes, is there an age limit?
  9. What is normal sexual behaviour for children?

  1. What do I do if I think a child is being harmed or is not being cared for adequately?

You are required by law to contact your local Children's Aid Society and report any child protection concerns if you have reasonable grounds to suspect that a child falls into one of the 13 categories set out in Section 72(1) of the Child and Family Services Act.

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  1. What is "reasonable grounds"?

"Reasonable grounds" have been interpreted to mean what an average person, given their training, background and experience, exercising normal and honest judgement, would have reason to suspect.

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  1. What if I don't report?

Every person who performs professional or official duties with respect to children may be guilty of an offence if they do not report a suspicion and the information was obtained in the course of their professional duties. These include, but are not limited to:

  1. health care professionals
  2. a teacher, principal, social worker, family counsellor, priest, rabbi, member of clergy, operator or employee of a day nursery and youth and recreation worker.
  3. a peace officer and a coroner
  4. a solicitor
  5. a service provider and an employee of a service provider.

If any of these persons are convicted of an offence in any of these situations he or she may be liable of a fine or not more than $1,000.

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  1. Do I have to give you my name when I call in with a referral?

No, you can remain anonymous if you wish. However, remaining anonymous can sometimes prove to be problematic. Although the central screener attempts to get all of the information possible and ask every question, there is a chance that something has been overlooked. There are times that we call the referral source for further clarification about the information provided or ask some other questions that came to light when the referral is discussed with the manager. It is helpful to have a name and number to call back and confirm.

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  1. What happens after I report?

CAS workers are trained professionals. They have the responsibility and authority under the CFSA to take the necessary actions and precautions to protect children. While the Society may not investigate every case, an action is taken whenever a report is made whether it is reviewing similar reports on the family in question or referring them to a community program or service.

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  1. How old does my child have to be to be left alone?

There is no definitive answer to this question. It depends on the maturity of the child, the length of time the child is being left alone, is there a safety plan in place, is the child responsible for younger children, etc. Each situation is considered on its own merit. This is why it may be okay for one child of a certain age to be left alone for a short duration of time while another child of the same age is not okay to be left alone. No child under the age of 10 should be left alone for any length of time.

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  1. At what age can a child babysit?

Babysitting safety courses run by community groups are offered to children/youth 12 years of age or older. However, once again there is no definitive answer to this question. Consideration needs to be given to the maturity of the babysitter, safety plans, age and special needs of children being cared for, length of time that the youth will be caring for the children, etc. Time of day is also an important factor as it may be appropriate for a twelve-year-old to care for younger children in the evening once they have fallen asleep than if the same children were to be cared for during the day when they are up and about. In addition, a child caring for younger siblings may not be deemed appropriate if there is some level of sibling rivalry that would place the children at risk or if the younger children do not listen to their older sibling.

It may be deemed appropriate that a twelve year old cares for younger children for a period of three to four hours while it would be frowned upon for the same aged child to care for children overnight or extended periods of time.

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  1. Can children of the opposite sex share a room/bed? If yes, is there an age limit?

There is no easy answer to this question. Pre-school children can often share a room, however, once a child reaches the age of six or seven, they naturally become conscious about their bodies and differences between the sexes. Sharing a room with a sibling of the opposite sex can make a school aged child embarrassed and uncomfortable. Different sleeping arrangements should be made as the child ages.

In regards to sharing a bed, there should be enough room in the bed to allow the child to sleep comfortably. Once again it depends on the child, their age and their social/sexual development.

The above discussion relates to "average" children with "average" life experiences. Children who have been sexually interfered with should not share a room with opposite sex siblings and may not be able to share a room with same sex siblings. If the child exhibits sexually inappropriate behaviours then a child requires their own private sleeping arrangements to ensure their safety and safety of their siblings.

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  1. What is normal sexual behaviour for children?

Normal sexual development is expressed by different behaviours at different ages. The following is a brief summary of what could be considered normal. If you have concerns, it is important to discuss the concerns with health professionals or call the Society and speak with the central screener.

Birth

  • sexual organs of babies respond in that boys will have erections and girls will have vaginal lubrication.

Age 1

  • child is very much into touching and sucking
  • child is learning self-acceptance and basic trust

Age 2

  • child becomes of male/female differences
  • child has a strong interest in body parts; touches genitals

Age 2-4

  • child is very much into experimenting with "pee" and "poop"
  • child enjoys nudity, movement, action
  • child enjoys messing but needs help with personal hygiene
  • child is experiencing self-control i.e. potty training - control of body
  • masturbation

Age 4-6

  • masturbation
  • child is experiencing/understanding sex roles
  • child plays house, mommy, daddy, show and tell (genitals), name calling like pee face, poop head, fart face, etc.
  • child has a need for privacy
  • child needs to satisfy sexual curiosity (re: boy vs girl) through various games, - usually once satisfied the curiosity decreases as do games
  • child is vulnerable to others

Age 6-10

  • child's interest in sex is less obvious due to their private worlds
  • child is involved in fantasies and developing boundaries and limit-setting for themselves
  • child's games involve peeking, doctor, kissing, hand holding, "smutty" jokes
  • Interest in same sex and own body
  • Masturbation may decrease
  • Menstruation can start as early as 8 years old
  • Sexual development may precede emotional development
  • Vulnerable to abuse
  • Attitudes towards sexuality are set by parents and culture
  • Develop crushes - child feels successful and competent

Ages 10-12

  • physiology dominates - self image changes
  • child questions "Who am I?" and values
  • child experiences intellectual growth and has know-it attitude
  • establishes sexual identity
  • loses internal controls and needs support and guidance

Age 13-16

  • child questions "What can I do?"
  • explores roles through trial, error and testing
  • may use a persona to cover sexual conflicts i.e., clown, sexpot, Don Juan, Jock, Good kid
  • wants con