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The Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse


When children and teenagers are abused or neglected, they have little to no power to protect themselves and stop harmful behaviors directed at them. One may readily imagine how devastating the consequences of experiencing violence and mistreatment in childhood might be. Traumatizing memories may linger for years, and a former abused child or teenager may find himself or herself in an endless loop of guilt, aggression, depression, and deep grief.

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In Canada, since 2007, it has been not only moral but also a legal duty to step forward in case a child suffers from violence. There are clear guidelines as to who is responsible for addressing the issue and what can be done in each case. This essay will provide key facts on the 2007 Child, Youth, and Family Services Act and discuss concerned citizens’ duties. Possible reasons as to why some people fail to report abuse will also be given in this paper.

Child, Youth, and Family Services Act

The Child, Youth, and Family Services Act aims at standardizing child protection, consolidating various services helping underage individuals and their families, and giving more power to the youth. In Ontario, the Child, Youth, and Family Services Act governs such programs as child welfare, youth justice services, adoption within the province, Indian and native child and family services, and community and residential services (“Child, Youth, and Family Services Act, 2017”).

The Act has children’s and youth’s best interests at heart and seeks constant improvement through review sessions. The Act’s stakeholders strive to maintain communication with citizens and encourage sending submissions where individuals can describe how legislation affects their lives and what could be changed. As of 2018, the age of protection was increased from 16 to 18 years to expand the outreach. The current objective of the amended Child, Youth, and Family Services Act is to give voice to minors and ensure that they have a chance to speak up and seek a legal advocate.

Duties under the Child, Youth, and Family Services Act (2007)

The Act defines a child in need as an underage individual who suffers or is likely to suffer from psychological or physical abuse. The Act goes into detail describing what constitutes child abuse, and namely, physical harm caused by the inability to provide appropriate care, supervise, and protect a child or a pattern of neglect. If a child is likely to suffer from abuse due to the reasons mentioned above, such a case should also be reported to prevent further escalation (“Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect”).

The notion of abuse also includes sexual exploitation and molestation or the likelihood of events of such nature. A child who shows clear signs of mental instability such as self-harming behaviors, anxiety, and depression should also be handled by professionals. It is an adult’s responsibility to contact authorities if they observe a child that is denied adequate medical treatment.

The Child, Youth, and Family Services Act states clearly that anyone capable of identifying a child in need has the responsibility to report child abuse. The Act prescribes professionals working with children – medical practitioners, teachers, mentors – to have heightened awareness and pay close attention to children in need (Melton 11). If an individual identifies a child as one in need, they need to contact a child aid society as soon as possible. The service is available around the clock, seven days a week. Each case will be thoroughly investigated with the involvement of the police and other institutions.

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Failure to Report: Underlying Reasons

Despite the government’s best efforts, there is still a hidden epidemic of child abuse since many cases remain unreported. Sometimes, even law-abiding citizens fail to report to the authorities when they notice the sign of mistreatment in a child. There are psychological reasons why people keep silent instead of taking action. First, people are often frightened and shocked by what they observed. The initial reaction of fear prevents them from interfering and putting abusive behavior to a halt. While such a reaction is nothing but natural, a conscious citizen should be ready to face the harsh reality and meddle for the wellbeing of the future generation.

Second, some people start doubting the validity of their reactions to what they witnessed. They might think that they are overreacting, and the situations are not as grave as it appears to be. The rule of thumb, in this case, would be “better safe than sorry”: even if dubious behaviors will not prove to be abusive, it is important to fulfill the civil duty. All in all, it is essential to put emotions aside and have a clear agenda.

Another reasonable concern that many citizens have relates to the issue of anonymity and confidentiality. It is easy to imagine how one may fear exposure and retaliation for the interference. However, if one educates himself or herself on the particularities of the Child, Youth, and Family Service Act, it becomes obvious that it is possible to provide the necessary information to the authorities without revealing their identity. Increasing legal literacy may be of great help in enhancing the reporting rate. Further, some people are convinced that only professionals can handle situations when a child is abused. Nevertheless, a case needs to be reported first to be delegated to specialists later.

Lastly, another common cause of inaction is the conviction that other people’s behaviors, decisions, and child-rearing styles are a private matter. One should remember that when the contents of someone’s actions amount to a criminal offense, it is no longer personal and should not be treated as such. Possible solutions might include staff training sessions at facilities that deal with kids – schools, education centers, hospitals, and more content available for Internet users that would include basic guidelines.


Admittedly, preventing child abuse or addressing it promptly is much more efficient than handling the consequences which find their way into adulthood. Hence, it is not only imperative that the authorities punish those who mistreat children but also that others partake in identifying cases of neglect and reporting them to the police and other respective institutions. In 2007, the Canadian Government passed the Child, Youth, and Family Services Act aiming at enhancing child protection from abuse and exploitation.

Under the same act, everyone must report child abuse if they are capable of doing so. The Act provides clear criteria of child abuse and outlines the course of action a concerned citizen should undertake. Despite increased social awareness, many people still abstain from reporting due to various psychological reasons. It is argued that there should be more education on the matter, for instance, in the form of staff training sessions.

Works Cited

Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017, S.O. 2017, c. 14, Sched. 1.” Queen’s Printer for Ontario. Web.

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Melton, Gary B. “Mandated Reporting: A Policy Without Reason.” Child Abuse & Neglect, vol. 29, 2005, pp. 9-18.

“Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect: It’s Your Duty. Your Responsibilities under the Child and Family Services Act.” Queen’s Printer for Ontario, 2012. Web.

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