What To Do When CAS (Children's Aid Society) Enters Your Life
The Children’s Aid Society (CAS) has been in the news lately due to revelations during a coroner’s inquest into the death of a seven-year-old Toronto girl, Katelynn Sampson (Katelynn). The Toronto CAS’ chief operating officer testified during the inquest that CAS failed to intervene in Katelynn’s situation in time to prevent her death. It was only after police advised the CAS of Katelynn’s death that they learned that both guardians who were awarded custody of Katelynn had a history of abuse and a criminal record.
While these stories often make the front page of the papers, there are many other cases of wholly or partially unfounded allegations that forever impact the life of a family.
What are Children’s Aid Societies?
CAS are agencies mandated by the Ontario government through Child and Family Services Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. C.11 (the “Act”) to provide child protection services for child and youth who are experiencing abuse or are at risk of experiencing abuse. The abuse (or allegations of abuse) can be physical, sexual, or emotional, or occur through neglect or abandonment. The role of CAS is to:=
- Investigate allegations or evidence that children who are under the age of sixteen years or are in the society’s care or under its supervision may be in need of protection;
- Protect, where necessary, children who are under age sixteen or are in the society’s care or under its supervision;
- Provide care for children assigned or committed to it’s under the Act;
- Supervise children;
- Place children for adoption; and
- Perform any other duties given to it by the Act or any other Act.
CAS operate as non-profit organizations that a run by a board of directors who are elected from the local community. They staff child youth workers, child protection workers, family service workers, children’s service workers, supervisors and other management to handle several case files at once. Each CAS also has a law department to advise and help with court hearings and orders.
What Authority Does a CAS Have?
When a CAS investigates and verifies a protection concern or the risk of harm, they may:
- Take no action but give a caution warning and offer community supports;
- Agree to a voluntary care agreement (without a court order);
- Seek a supervision order from the court (to place the child in the care and custody or a parent or another person, subject to the supervision of the society);
- Seek a society wardship order for a period not exceeding 12 months; or
- Seek a crown wardship order.
CAS is required to notify custodial parents when they are seeking a court order. However, CAS may apprehend a child without prior notice and without a warrant (with police assistance if needed) at any time provided they appear in court within 5 days to obtain a court order officiating their custody a child.
Usually crown wardship is not sought until after a temporary wardship is tried. A child that is less than 6 years of cannot be in temporary care beyond 12 months and if a child is 6 years or older then the temporary care cannot exceed 24 months. When a child is in the care of CAS, CAS may arrange for parents to have supervised access visits.
Are there Different Types of CAS?
According to the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, there are 47 designated children’s aid societies across Ontario. Under s. 15 of the Act, agencies can be approved as a CAS for a specified territory such as the Toronto CAS, which serves the territory of Toronto. These agencies are not all the same and they each operate independently. Nine agencies are Aboriginal and three agencies are faith-based (two Catholic and one Jewish).
How is CAS Regulated?
Through the Ministry of Community and Social Services and the Child and Family Services Review Board (CFSRB), the Ontario Government maintains a degree of involvement as it funds and monitors the agencies, licenses children’s group and foster homes and develops policy to support child welfare. Under the authority of the Act, the CFSRB can review certain CAS decisions, placements and complaints related to the services they provide.
Contact With CAS About a Child In Your Life
If CAS contacts you or a loved one about a child in your life as part of their mandate to investigate abuse and protect children, it is important to remain calm and seek legal advice right away to protect your children and your rights, preferably before any discussion with them. From the very first contact with CAS, you should keep any documents that they provide you and a copy of information you provide them and share these with your legal counsel.
As the case progresses it is very important that you maintain contact with your lawyer so you can provide him or her with additional documents and obtain advice about the next steps. There may be hearings or other meetings that you are required to attend with your lawyer.
How We Can Help: Family Lawyers at Donnell Law Group
If you are concerned about serious abuse or have been contacted by the CAS in relation to false allegations, this is likely one of the most stressful times in your life. Obtaining legal advice and representation is critical and can shape how your case progresses. At Donnell Law Group in Keswick, our family lawyers service Newmarket, Richmond Hill, Barrie and serve in all Ontario courthouses. Our skilled lawyers have helped countless families navigate through the Ontario family law process with CAS. Contact us today at 1-888-307-9991.