Reporting Child Abuse & Neglect

​The Ministry of Youth and Children Services website explains that the public and professionals have a "duty to report" to a children's aid society any suspicions that a child may be in need of protection. There are links to questions and answers on the topic and a description of the signs of child abuse and neglect.


Signs of Abuse

What is child abuse?

Child abuse is anything that endangers the development, security or survival of a child. Learn more about what is classified as abuse and the complete legal definition in Canada’s Criminal Code.

Eligibility Spectrum

The Ontario Child Welfare Eligibility Spectrum is a field-developed, eligibility tool for child welfare in Ontario. Promoting excellence in our provincial child protection services, the child welfare eligibility assessment instrument supports the Ontario network of Children’s Aid Societies, their associated communities and the children, youth and families they serve.

The Eligibility Spectrum is a tool designed to assist Children’s Aid Society child protection staff in making consistent and accurate decisions about a child or family’s eligibility for service at the time a society becomes involved.

Child protection workers investigate physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect and determine if a society needs to become involved to protect children and youth from domestic violence; help children find adoptive families; provide family care for children; and support families and youth in conflict.

The revised Spectrum (2016) contains additional scales and items to assist decision making in areas resulting from changes in legislation, current research, practice and inquest recommendations from the Office of the Chief Coroner. The 2016 version is the result of a group of dedicated Children’s Aid Society (CAS) professionals who completed research and consulted with front line staff and stakeholders throughout the province to ensure the revisions made reflect the interests and needs of the sector.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is the intentional use of force on any part of a child’s body that results in serious injuries. It may be a single incident, a series or pattern of incidents. The Criminal Code says that physical force can’t be used on children unless the force used is “reasonable” and used for “corrective purposes” or discipline by a parent or someone in the role of a parent.


Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is anything that causes serious mental or emotional harm to a child. Emotional abuse can take the form of verbal attacks on a child’s sense of self, repeated humiliation or rejection. Exposure to violence in severe conflict in the home, forced isolation, restraint or causing a child to be afraid much of the time may also cause emotional harm. Emotional abuse rarely happens only once.


Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse is the improper exposure of a child to sexual contact, activity or behaviour. It includes any sexual touching, intercourse or exploitation by anyone in whose care the child has been left or who takes advantage of a child. Such a person could be a parent, a relative, a friend or a stranger. Sexual abuse of a child is a criminal offense.



Neglect is any lack of care that causes serious harm to a child’s development or endangers the child in any way. Physical neglect is the failure to meet the child’s physical needs. This includes failing to provide adequate nutrition, clothing, shelter, health care and protection from harm. Emotional neglect is the failure to meet the child’s emotional needs for affection and a sense of belonging.


According to the Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect, the first nation-wide study to examine the incidence of reported child abuse in Canada, there are more than 200,000 cases of reported child abuse and neglect in Canada:

  • 93% of alleged perpetrators are known to their child victims.

  • 69% of sexual abuse cases involved girls and 31% involved boys.

  • 60% of physical abuse cases involved boys and 40% involved girls.

  • 69% of physical abuse cases resulted from inappropriate punishment.