Friday, November 4, 2016

Know Your Rights: Working with Child Protection Services

This article is geared toward Ontario, but the advice is helpful for any families working with Child Protection authorities anywhere.

Know your rights – 6 things you need to know to protect yourself and your child

While child care workers have a lot of power given to them by the province, and in their eye they’re doing right by the law and your child, they have to do things by the book.

Toronto area lawyer Katherine Hensel says there’s too much at stake to be overwhelmed by it. She says you have to keep your head and focus on what you need to do to get your child back.

Here are six points to keep in mind if you’re dealing with the system.

1. Get the documents from the society, they have to serve you, they have to provide you with an explanation in writing that’s also going to be filed with the court about why they are apprehending your child. Look at those documents. Consider them. And get a lawyer right away.

2. Make sure you find out when the court date is. You have to go to that court date. And if you don’t, it may be characterized as you don’t care enough or you’re not organized enough to make it to court.

3. Get on legal aid funding, a certificate or whatever province or territory you’re in. Make sure that you’re in a position to find and retain a lawyer, before the first court date. That is going to take a fair amount of work.

4. Look at the risks they say you pose. That your life and your home pose to your children. Be honest with yourself and sort out what you agree with and what you don’t agree with. Take immediate steps to address, or to begin to address the risks that you agree with and what you don’t agree with. Start to build evidence, to contradict what the society says.

5. Don’t sign any agreements, unless you completely agree that you cannot safely care for your child in the present, because it may be difficult to go back from that. Don’t sign any voluntary agreements without the advice of lawyer.

6. Engage with your First Nation or community, for whatever resources and support and advocacy that they can provide to you.