Child Protection

In Newfoundland and Labrador, the provincial law protecting children who are maltreated is contained in a written law called the Children and Youth Care and Protection Act. This law applies primarily to child protection proceedings such as those where the Director of Child, Youth and Family Services has taken a child into care and asks the Court to determine if the child should be returned to a parent or left in the custody of the Director either temporarily or permanently. It is the law that child protection social workers must operate under in Newfoundland & Labrador. The public has a duty to report what they think might be abuse or neglect of a child. That duty is set out in the Children and Youth Care and Protection Act.

 

Which Court Handles Child Protection cases?

For those communities which fall within the “judicial area” where the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador Family Division operates exclusively (East Coast and West Coast), such cases are handled by this court. See “judicial areas” section in “About Family Law Courts in NL” section of this website to see geographical descriptions.

In all other areas of the Province (including Labrador), child protection matters are normally handled by the Provincial Court.

Court Procedures After a Child Has Been Removed

After a child is removed, and where Child, Youth & Family Services has applied to a Court for an order that a child is in need of protection, there are generally two court hearings. The first is called a Presentation Hearing and the second is called a Protective Intervention Hearing.

The social worker must file an application with the court for a protective intervention hearing within the next day after the child has been removed. Upon filing of this application with the court, the social worker will be given two court dates; one for the presentation hearing and one for the protective intervention hearing.

Once the application is made, the parent must be informed of the dates of both of the hearings within 3 days. If the child is 12 years of age or older, they must be notified too. Along with the notification of the date for the hearing, the parent will receive a copy of the court application, a written report of the circumstances that led to the child being removed, and a plan for the care of the child.

In cases where a child is removed, he/she is considered to be in the interim care of a director immediately after removal. The child is considered to be in such care until the court makes a determination as to whether the child is in need of protective intervention.

Presentation Hearing

The presentation hearing is normally held no later than 10 days after the social worker filed the application for protective intervention. The purpose of a presentation hearing is for the judge to decide if there is reason to believe that the child is in need of protective intervention. The judge will hear evidence from both sides.

Most often a judge will leave the final decision as to whether or not the child is in need of protective intervention for the conclusion of the protective intervention hearing. At the end of the presentation hearing a judge may decide to dismiss the application, or to place the child in the interim care of the director until the conclusion of the protective intervention hearing. The judge may place the child in the physical care of a person other than the director. The child could be placed to live with another parent, even if that parent does not have custody of the child, or with a person significant to the child. Or, the judge may decide to send the child home under the supervision of the director.

Protective Intervention Hearing

The second court hearing is called the protective intervention hearing. At the conclusion of the hearing the judge will make a determination as to whether or not the child is in need of protective intervention. In order to make a decision about what is in the best interests of the child, the court must consider the factors set out in section 9 of the CYFS Act. Some of these factors are the child’s cultural heritage; the child’s developmental needs and the importance of stability and continuity in the child’s care. In determining what is in the best interest of the child the court will consider both the present situation and the advantages or disadvantages of any proposed plan of care.

If the judge decides that the child is in need of protective intervention, then the judge must decide how the child will be protected.

Court Orders

If a judge determines that the child is in need of protective intervention, the judge will make one of three orders regarding the custody of the child, namely; a supervision order, a temporary custody order, or a continuous custody order.

Supervision Order

This is an order where a child who is in need of protective intervention is allowed to remain with his/her parent, but the family will be under the director’s supervision for a period up to six months. During this time a social worker will visit the home and the child. The judge’s order may set out detailed conditions which the parents must abide by.

Temporary Custody Order

A temporary custody order is an order whereby a child is removed from his/her parent (s) on a temporary basis, until the risk to the child is reduced to the extent that the child can be returned to his/her parent (s).

Continuous Custody Order

A continuous custody order is an order that permanently removes a child from the custody of his/her parents and entrusts the child to the Director of CYFS. The director has sole custody of the child, and has the authority to make all decisions concerning the child. The director may decide to place the child for adoption.