Child Welfare Reform Act,Robins Report
Highlight Teachers' Responsibilities
Just one week after the Ontario
government proclaimed the first major changes to child protection legislation in 10 years,
a judicial inquiry into a tragic breakdown of educators' responsibility to vulnerable
students called for more sweeping changes to ensure the safety of students.
While teachers have long been required to report suspicions of child abuse, the amended
Child and Family Services Act requires teachers to report all suspicions they may have
based on reasonable grounds that a child is or may be in need of protection to the
Children's Aid Society (CAS).
The amendments expand the grounds or reasons for finding a child in need of protection,
including adding the concept of neglect, and lowering the threshold for determining risk
of harm and emotional harm to children. It also allows evidence of a person's past conduct
toward children to be used in child protection court proceedings.
The amended legislation creates a single duty to report for professionals and the
public. Despite the provisions of any other act, a person must report, based on reasonable
grounds, any suspicion that a child is or may be in need of protection. This expands the
professional's duty to report and holds him or her liable for not reporting where a child
is in need of protection. In contrast, the previous provision limited the requirement to
report to cases of suspected abuse.
Teachers must report their suspicions to the CAS forthwith
if a child:
- has suffered physical harm inflicted by someone in charge of the child or through their
failure to care for, provide for, supervise or protect the child, or from a pattern of
- is likely to suffer harm
- has been sexually molested or exploited
- is likely to be sexually molested or exploited
- requires medical treatment that is not being provided
- has suffered emotional harm where there are reasonable grounds to believe it results
from actions, failure to act or neglect of a person in charge of the child
- has suffered emotional harm and treatment is not being provided
- is likely to suffer emotional harm from the actions, failure to act or pattern of
neglect of parents or persons in charge
- is likely to suffer emotional harm and that parents or persons in charge are not
providing treatment or services to prevent the harm
- suffers from a condition that, if not remedied, could seriously impair their development
and parents or persons in charge are not providing treatment
- has been abandoned
- is less than 12 years old, has killed or seriously injured another person or caused
serious property damage and parents or persons in charge are not providing the necessary
services or treatment to prevent a recurrence
- is less than 12 years old and has on more than one occasion injured another person or
caused loss or damage to another person's property with the encouragement of the person in
charge of the child or because of that person's failure or inability to supervise the
The duty to report is also ongoing. If a person has made a previous report about a
child and has additional reasonable grounds to suspect that a child is or may be in need
of protection, they must make another report to the CAS.
The amendments also clarify that professionals cannot
delegate the duty to report to another individual and that the duty to report is an
ongoing obligation. In other words, a teacher can not leave it up to their principal to
report their concerns to the CAS, or vice versa.
The provision permitting court-ordered access to records is expanded to
allow access where a record may be relevant to a child protection proceeding and where it
may be relevant to assessing compliance with certain orders. A new provision is added
permitting the CAS to obtain a warrant to access records that may be relevant to
investigating an allegation that a child is or may be in need of protection.
In light of these changes and expanded responsibilities, teaching professionals in
Ontario will be required to have a clear knowledge of the Child and Family Services
Act if they wish to fulfill their duties under the amended Act. Members are also
reminded of subsection 1(27) of Ontario Regulation 437/97 made under the Ontario
College of Teachers Act, which states that "failing to comply with the member's
duties under the Child and Family Services Act" is defined as professional
You can learn more about these changes on the Ministry of Community and Social Services
web site at www.gov.on.ca/CSS/page/news/mar2700.html,
or contact the ministry for a copy of Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect - Your
Responsibility under the Child and Family Services Act.
Just one week after these changes were proclaimed, the
Honourable Sydney Robins released a comprehensive report - Protecting Our Students: A
Review to Identify and Prevent Sexual Misconduct in Ontario Schools - making over 100
recommendations. Robins was appointed by the provincial government to recommend ways to
identify and prevent sexual abuse, harassment or violence in Ontario schools.
The impetus for the report came from the case of a Sault Ste. Marie
teacher, Kenneth DeLuca, who assaulted 13 female students over a 21-year period. Robins
conducted extensive interviews with people associated with the investigation of DeLuca and
his trial, including a number of his victims, and with many stakeholder groups and
organizations in education. What went wrong in the DeLuca case provided the basis for many
of his recommendations.
In accepting the report, the provincial government said that although about 70 per cent
of the recommendations had already been implemented, it would be working with the College
of Teachers to address an additional 39 recommendations.
Robins' recommendations are wide-ranging. They cover the obligations of teachers,
school officials and school boards, the use of evidence from children in disciplinary
procedures, educational programs for CAS workers, teacher organizations and other
stakeholders that would promote understanding of the issues, information about sexual
misconduct in pre-service and in-service programs, screening of teacher applicants,
reporting sexual misconduct to the College, investigating sexual misconduct and the need
for full disclosure.
Reporting to the College
Robins recommends that legislation be changed to prevent
abusive teachers moving on to another school or jurisdiction before they can be charged or
convicted. Currently, school boards are required to inform the College when a teacher has
been convicted of a sexual or other offence that might put students at risk, but if no
conviction is forthcoming, the College need not be informed.
Robins calls these provisions "significantly deficient." He
recommends that school boards be required to inform the College when a member is charged
with an offence, is disciplined or dismissed because of an offence or when a member
resigns in the midst of an investigation regarding an offence.
Robins' report covers concerns he heard from teachers that they might be victims of
false reports. His recommendations, he says, are designed to promote child safety, but
"not at the expense of fairness to teachers." He conceded that false accusations
have been made and recommends education of children's aid societies, teachers'
associations and other stakeholders about reporting requirements to minimize errors.
Criminal record checks are just one aspect of screening new
employees, says Robins. He recommends that before any offer of a job is made, a criminal
record check, a disciplinary record check, a full reference check with previous employers
and in-depth personal interviews should be conducted for every applicant for a teaching
position, for school staff in a position of trust or authority and all volunteers who have
frequent and unsupervised contact with students.
Robins also recommends that:
- the court's power to prohibit convicted offenders from being in contact with children
under 14 years of age be extended to young people under the age of 18
- there be much more explanation and illustration of how teachers should behave with their
students and education for all those who work in schools about what comprises sexual
- the misconduct regulation made under the Ontario College of Teachers Act be
amended to include sexual misconduct
- the College's Ethical Standards be changed to include sexual abuse, harassment, a
relationship with a student or former student under the age of 18 or "any conduct
directed to establishing such a relationship"
- that the duty of teachers to inform a colleague about an "adverse report" not
apply to a report of suspected sexual misconduct
- that members of the College be obliged to intervene in cases of suspected or alleged
The Robins report is available through Publications Ontario at 880 Bay Street,
Toronto ON, or telephone 416-326-5300 or toll-free in Ontario 1-800-668-9938.