from the Minister for Children and Families
abuse is one of the most serious problems facing our society. Abused
children suffer and, all too often, the damage lasts a lifetime. Even
worse, it can extend to future generations as patterns of abuse and
neglect repeat themselves.
Most children do get the love and care they need to grow up strong, safe
and secure. But others need our help. That's why it's so important to know
the signs of abuse and neglect, and to take the right action when we see
them. This guide will tell you how to do that. It also offers advice on
Whether they're our own children, our neighbours', or a stranger's, we all
share responsibility for their well-being. We owe it to them to do
whatever we can to keep childhood a safe place to be.
abuse occurs with alarming frequency. As public awareness of the subject
has grown, so have the numbers of reported and confirmed cases. The
following definitions are adapted from B.C.’s child protection
legislation, the Child, Family and Community Service Act.
Physical abuse is any physical force or action that
results, or could result, in injury to a child. It’s stronger than what
would be considered reasonable discipline.
Sexual abuse is the use of a child for sexual
gratification. It includes sexual touching as well as non-touching abuse,
such as making a child watch sexual acts.
Emotional abuse is a pattern of destructive behaviour or
verbal attacks by an adult on a child. It can include rejecting,
terrorizing, ignoring, isolating, exploiting or corrupting a child.
is failure to provide for a child’s basic needs: food, clothing,
adequate shelter, supervision and medical care. Neglect is the form of
abuse most frequently reported to the Ministry for Children and Families.
It's Your Legal Duty
If you think a child is being abused, you have a legal duty to report the
situation. Dial 310-1234.
If needed, ministry services will be provided for the child and
to Suspect Abuse
Abused and neglected children almost always show signs of their suffering.
Some of the most common signs are listed below.
Remember, these are warning signs. They don’t necessarily mean abuse is
happening. But the more you see, the more concerned you should be.
bruises especially on the face, lower back, thighs or upper arms
bruises on an infant
coloured bruises, indicating they’re at different stages of healing
complaints such as sore throats or stomach aches that have no medical
of proper hygiene
inappropriate to weather conditions
stained or bloody underwear
bruising, bleeding, pain or itching near genitals or anus
on breasts, buttocks or thighs
onset of nightmares, bedwetting, and/or fear of the dark
change in attitude towards someone
sexual knowledge not usual for their age in their language, behaviour
anxious and fearful after being outgoing and friendly
these are warning signs. They don’t necessarily mean abuse is
happening. But, especially where one or more sign is noticed in the
same child, there‘s cause for concern.
a Child Comes to you
Sometimes, a child who is being abused will tell an adult. If this happens
them know you believe them
them you’re sorry it happened and let them know it’s not their
promise to keep it a secret
don’t say everything will be fine now. It may take a lot of time
before everything is fine again.
If you Suspect Abuse is Taking Place
Call the Helpline for Children - Dial 310-1234. The Helpline operates 24 hours a day. There’s no
charge for the call. The person you talk to will be a child protection
What the Social Worker will ask you
When you report suspected abuse, the social worker will ask you about:
child’s age, name and location
immediate concerns for the child’s safety
you believe the child needs protection
statements the child has made
child’s parents and other family members
other children such as siblings who may be involved or at risk
previous incidents or concerns for the child
other relevant information such as the child’s language or special
Don’t wait until you have all this information
before calling. Just tell the social worker as much as you know.
They’ll also ask for your name, address and phone
number and how you know the child. Your name will be kept
After you Make a Report
If it appears the child may, indeed, need protection, a child protection
social worker will start an investigation. This involves seeing and
talking to the child and people who know the child, such as their parents,
extended family, teacher, family doctor or child care worker.
Depending on the kind of abuse or neglect involved, the social worker may
contact other agencies such as the police, the Superintendent of Schools,
or the local Medical Health Officer.
If the child is aboriginal, their band or community will also be involved.
Or, the information may be turned over to an aboriginal child welfare
When an investigation
finds that a child needs protection, the social worker will take whatever
steps are most appropriate and least disruptive to the child. Children are
only removed from their homes when they’re in immediate danger and
nothing less disruptive can protect them.
Children are Removed from their Homes
Whenever a child is
taken away from their family for their own protection, a court process
starts. A Family Court judge hears evidence from all sides and makes the
final decision about who the child will live with, and under what
Children who cannot safely stay with family members or friends go to
foster homes or care facilities that can meet their needs.
Whether you’re a
parent, family member, neighbour or friend, the best way to protect a
child from abuse is to have a good, open relationship with them. That
means spending time with them, letting them know you care and, above all,
listening to what they have to say.
It’s important that they understand that they can talk to you about
anything – no matter how disturbing or uncomfortable.
the children in your life to talk to you about their day, every day
(or as often as you see them).
them to tell you if an older person ever asks them to keep a secret.
sure they know the difference between good touching (like a pat
on the back or a quick hug for something done well) and bad touching,
which is any touching that makes a child uncomfortable.
sure they know it’s okay to say “no” to an older person – even
if that person is someone they know and trust. Because the tragic
truth is, most children who are abused are victims of people they
shake a child – it’s one of the most dangerous things a
parent or caregiver can do. Shaking a baby or young child can cause
brain damage, blindness and even death.
Tips for parents and
by strangers is very rare, accounting for less than 1% of missing children
cases, according to the RCMP. Still, we should all take sensible
leave a young child alone in a public place – not even for just a
put their name on their clothing. A stranger can use it to gain their
along when a young child uses a public washroom, even if they protest.
assume there’s someone else watching out for your child. Always know
where they are and who’s looking after them.
in case the worst happens, keep an up-to-date photo (no more than six
months old) with your child’s height, weight, eye and hair colour on
the back, along with a description of any birth marks.
are also a number of things you can teach your child to help them deal
safely with strangers on their own:
soon as they’re old enough, teach them their name, address, phone
number and parents’ names.
them to shout, “You’re not my mother!” or “You’re not my
father!” if someone tries to take them away.
them to go to a sales clerk if they’re separated from you in a
them to go to a police officer if they’re in trouble and one is
nearby. Never frighten your child by threatening to call the
police if they do something wrong.
your child a code word for emergencies. That way, a stranger who
doesn’t know the word won’t get far, even if they say something
like, “Come with me to the hospital; your father has been hurt.”
your child to say “no” firmly. Practice shouting it with them.
Give them permission to scream it if they’re in trouble.
to Get Help
To report child abuse or neglect
660-0508 (Lower Mainland)
Kids Help Phone (counseling and referral)
Youth Against Violence Line