This policy provides guidelines for identifying and reporting incidents of child abuse and neglect.
- Under section 14 of the Child, Family and Community Service Act, anyone who has a reason to believe that a child has been abused or neglected, or at risk for abuse or neglect, and the parent is unwilling or unable to protect the child, has a legal duty to report to a child welfare officer.
- This legal duty applies to everyone, including service providers, family members, and the public.
- This duty to report overrides any duty to protect the privacy of students or staff – with the exception of solicitor-client privilege or confidentiality provisions of the federal Youth Criminal Justice Act.
- Acting on a ‘reason to believe’ means that based on what you have seen or heard, or information you have received, you believe that a child may be at risk for abuse or neglect. In other words, child abuse or neglect does not have to be proven for you to act.
Staff members are therefore strongly encouraged to be aware of, and alert to, certain indicators of possible child abuse or neglect (see Part II below), and to respond appropriately when having concerns about a child’s safety or well-being.
Part I. Definitions
For the purposes of this policy, the following definitions will apply:
In British Columbia, a child is anyone under the age of 19.
A parent can be any of the following: the mother of a child; the father of a child; a person to whom custody of the child has been granted by a court order or agreement; a legal guardian; or a person with whom the child resides and who stands in place of the child’s mother or father.
(c) Service Provider
A service provider includes any of a wide range of employers, contractors, and volunteers who provide services for children and families. In the context of CENTURY a service provider can be a teacher, advisor, administrator, or any other member of staff, or volunteer.
(d) Physical Abuse
Physical abuse is a deliberate physical assault, or action by a person that results in, or is likely to result in, physical harm to a child. It includes the use of unreasonable force to discipline a child or to prevent a child from harming him/herself or others. The injuries sustained by a child may vary in severity and range from:
• minor bruising,
• burns, welts, or bite marks, to
• major fractures of the bones or skull, to
• in the most extreme situations, death.
(e) Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse is the use of a child for sexual gratification by a person in a position of trust and/or authority, or by a significantly older or more powerful child. It includes:
• sexual touching or invitation to touch for sexual purposes,
• menacing or threatening sexual acts, obscene gestures, obscene communications or stalking,
• sexual references to the child’s body/behaviour by works/gestures,
• requests that the child expose their body for sexual purposes,
• deliberate exposure of the child to sexual activity or material, and
• sexual aspects of organized or ritual abuse.
(f) Sexual Exploitation
Sexual exploitation is a form of sexual abuse that occurs when a child engages in a sexual activity, usually through manipulation or coercion, in exchange for money, drugs, food, shelter, or other considerations. It includes:
• performing sexual acts,
• sexually explicit activity for entertainment,
• involvement with escort or massage parlour services, and
• appearing in pornographic images.
(g) Emotional Abuse
Emotional abuse is the most difficult type of abuse to define and recognize. It may range from ignoring the child, to habitually humiliating the child, to withholding life-sustaining nurturing. Generally, it involves acts or omissions by those in contact with a child that is likely to have serious, negative emotional impacts. Emotional abuse may occur separately from, or along with, other forms of abuse and neglect. It includes the emotional harm caused by witnessing domestic violence. Typical behaviours include:
• ignoring, isolating,
• humiliating, verbal attacks,
• scapegoating, and
• exploiting, or corrupting a child.
Neglect is failure to provide for a child’s basic needs. It involves an act of omission by the parent, resulting in, or that is likely to result in, harm to the child. Neglect may include the failure to provide the necessities of life, such as food, clothing, adequate shelter, supervision, medical care, or protection from risks, to the extent that the child’s physical health, development or safety is, or is likely to be, harmed.
(h) Failure to Thrive
A child who has stopped growing and/or has experienced significant weight loss, may be suffering from ‘failure to thrive’ syndrome.
Disclosure is the act of a child informing another person that he/she has been, is, or is likely to be abused or neglected.
Part II. Possible Indicators of Child Abuse and Neglect
Indicators of child abuse and neglect can take many forms, and below is a listing of some of the more common symptoms. These symptoms do not of themselves ‘prove’ child abuse or neglect. Many of these symptoms can also result from situations such as divorce, separation, or the death of a significant person. For this reason, a child welfare officer is responsible for making the final assessment.
A. Physical Abuse
1. Unexplained bruises, welts, cuts, burns, bite marks, or fractures.
2. Injuries at different stages of healing, or recurring injuries.
3. Explanations that do not fit the injury, or the story keeps changing.
4. Different coloured bruises, which could be indicative of recurring injuries.
5. Constant complaints of physical discomfort, such as hunger, stomach aches, or symptoms that have no medical explanation.
6. Injuries that have a pattern or look like they may have been caused by an object (e.g. , hand, stick, buckle, stove element).
7. Bruises in unusual places, such as ears, trunk, neck, or buttocks.
8. Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts, self-destructive behavior (such as self-inflicted wounds, self-mutilation, extreme risk-taking behavior).
9. Flinches when touched.
10. Afraid of, or reluctant to go home, or attempts to run away.
11. Changes in school performance or attendance.
12. Withdraws from family, friends, and activities previously enjoyed, or lacking friends and not participating in activities.
13. Shows unusual aggression, rages, or tantrums.
14. Poor self-esteem, feelings of shame and humiliation.
15. Expressing sadness, or crying frequently.
B. Sexual Abuse and/or Sexual Exploitation
1. Unexplained or persistent pain, bleeding, or unusual discharge in the genital or anal area.
3. Sexually transmitted diseases.
4. Expressing bizarre, unusually sophisticated, or unusual sexual knowledge (i.e. beyond what is appropriate for that stage of growth) in language, art, or play.
5. Forces or coerces another child to engage in sexual play.
6. Directs sexually intrusive behavior to adults.
7. Inserts objects into rectum or vagina.
8. Has unexplained gifts, new clothes, or money.
9. Changes in school performance and attendance.
10. Secretive about “new“ friends, activities, phone calls, or Internet use.
11. Unusual exploitative activities, such as performing sex acts for money.
12. Behaviors such as misuse of drugs or alcohol, stealing, fire-setting.
13. Flinches when touched.
C. Emotional Abuse
1. Frequent unexplained physical complaints, such as headaches, nausea, or abdominal pains.
2. Frequent diarrhea.
3. Mental or emotional development lags.
4. Isolated and has no friends, or complains of social isolation.
5. Behaviors inappropriate for age.
6. Fear of failure, overly high standards, reluctant to play.
7. Fears consequences of actions, often leading to lying.
8. Extreme withdrawal or aggressiveness, mood swings.
9. Overly compliant, too well-mannered.
10. Excessive neatness and cleanliness.
11. Extreme attention-seeking behaviours.
12. Poor peer-relationships.
13. Severe depression may be suicidal.
14. Runaway attempts.
15. Violence is a subject for art or writing.
16. Forbidden contact with other children.
17. Shows little anxiety towards strangers.
18. Unusually severe anxiety or worries.
1. Injuries where medical care has been unusually delayed or avoided.
2. Injuries resulting from lack of supervision.
3. Medical or dental needs that are consistently unattended to.
4. “Failure to thrive” in a child where no medical reason has been found (see Part II E. below).
5. Clothing consistently inadequate for weather conditions.
6. Persistent hunger.
7. Poor to inadequate nutrition.
8. Poor personal hygiene.
9. Forages for, hoards, or steals food.
10. Developmental delay or setbacks related to a lack of stimulation.
11. Poor school attendance.
12. Inappropriately takes on a caregiver role for a parent or siblings.
13. Tired or unable to concentrate at school.
14. Appears sad or has a flat affect.
15. Reluctant to go home; speaks of being or appears to be left alone at home a lot, unsupervised.
16. Is involved in behaviours such as misuse of drugs or alcohol, stealing, fire-setting.
17. Does not respond to affection or stimulation.
E. ‘Failure to Thrive’
1. Appears pale, emaciated, has ‘sunken cheeks’.
2. Body fat ratio is extremely low (e.g. wrinkled buttocks).
3. Skin may feel extremely dry, like parchment paper, as a result of dehydration.
4. Significant developmental milestones have not been attained within their age range (e.g. delayed menstruation in girls).
5. Appears lethargic and undemanding.
6. Uninterested in environment or surroundings.
7. Displays little or no movement.
Part III. How to Respond to a Disclosure
As a school service provider, you work closely with children, and may find yourself in a situation where a child discloses abuse or neglect, or where you suspect that abuse or neglect is occurring. A child may directly disclose the abuse; or may use indirect methods to disclose – through art, drama, writing, or hints. Children who have been abused or neglected are particularly vulnerable, and when a disclosure takes place, it is important not to upset the child further. Your primary role is to support the child, gather basic information, and report to a child welfare office as quickly as possible. If the child is in immediate danger, call police first.
When a child discloses abuse or neglect:
• Stay calm and listen. Do not react with shock or outrage; be reassuring and available to help.
• Go slowly. Do not rush to ask questions, but proceed gently and slowly. Ask questions such as ‘Can you tell me more about what happened?’
• Be supportive. Reassure the child that he/she has done the right thing by reporting. Also lend reassurance that he/she is not in trouble for reporting, that he/she is safe with you, and that you are glad that he/she chose to tell you about the abuse. Let the child know that you will do everything you can to help him/her.
• Get only the essential facts. Do not interview the child. Gather only enough information to have reason to believe that abuse or neglect has occurred. At this point, stop asking questions. Keep your questions general to what occurred, by whom, how, when, and where. Try to avoid asking why as this could imply the child was responsible in some way for the abuse.
• Tell the child what will happen next. Tell the child what steps you plan to take next, and who else will be involved. Avoid making promises, such as the alleged perpetrator will not get into trouble. Provide only reassurance that is realistic and achievable.
• Report. As soon as possible after the disclosure, promptly report the disclosure to a child welfare worker. Document verbatim what the child has told you; do not include personal opinions or judgments; maintain confidentiality of the documentation. This will ensure accuracy when reporting to the appropriate authority. Notify the Principal or designate promptly that you have made a report to a child welfare worker and/or police.
When a child is apparently disclosing indirectly, for example in the nature of his/her art or writing, you may wish to find out more information before you have ‘reason to believe’ that abuse or neglect is taking place. Under these circumstances, it is important to consider the following:
• Choose your approach carefully. The child may be fearful or reluctant to talk about what happened.
• Be relaxed and casual. If you appear anxious or exhibit strong feelings, the child may withdraw.
• Keep it private. Make sure you have enough time and a private setting with little chance of interruptions. The child is more likely to confide in you in a place where he/she feels safe.
• Be neutral. Be as objective as possible in expressing your concerns. Seek or ask for an explanation for the indicators you have observed.
• Be a good listener. Pay attention and express confidence in the child. This shows your genuine concern for his/her safety and well-being.
• Be supportive. Reassure the child that he or she has not done anything wrong.
• Get only the essential facts. Once you have enough information and reason to believe that abuse or neglect has occurred, stop gathering facts and be supportive. The child may be interviewed in depth by a child welfare worker. Avoid using why questions, which may suggest indirectly that the child may have done something wrong and increase the child’s reluctance to discuss the matter.
Part IV. Reporting Suspected Child Abuse or Neglect
Duty to Report:
The Child, Family and Community Service Act requires that anyone who has reason to believe that a child has been or is likely to be abused or neglected, and that the parent is unwilling or unable to protect the child, must report the suspected abuse or neglect to a child welfare worker.
It is the child welfare worker’s job to determine whether abuse or neglect has indeed taken place; your role is to report your concern, including any disclosures or indicators you have witnessed.
Failure to promptly report suspected abuse or neglect to a child welfare worker is a serious offence and carries a maximum penalty of a $10,000 fine, six months in jail, or both.
Circumstances that must be reported:
You must report when you have reason to believe that:
1. A child has been, or is likely to be, physically harmed, sexually abused or sexually exploited by a parent, or another person, and the parent is unwilling or unable to protect the child.
2. The child has been or is likely to be physically harmed because of neglect by the child’s parents.
3. The child is emotionally harmed by the parent’s conduct.
4. The child is deprived of the necessary health care.
5. The child’s development is likely to be seriously impaired by a treatable condition and the child’s parent refuses to provide or to consent to treatment.
6. The child’s parent is unable or unwilling to care for the child, and has not made adequate provisions for the child’s care.
7. The child is, or has been absent from, home in circumstances that endanger the child’s safety or well-being.
8. The child’s parent is dead, and adequate provision has not been made for the child’s care
9. The child has been abandoned, and adequate provision has not been made for the child’s care.
Part V. How to Contact a Child Welfare Officer
Time is often a critical factor in cases of child abuse or neglect; so do not delay before contacting a child welfare officer. Report your concerns as quickly as possible, even if:
• you do not have all the information, or
• you think someone else may also be reporting
Call 9-1-1 or your local police if the child is in immediate danger, or if a criminal offence has been or is likely to be committed. Report your concerns to the child welfare officer after you have called the police.
Criminal offences include, but are not limited to:
• criminal negligence causing bodily harm
• physical and sexual assault
• sexual interference or sexual invitation to touch a child under 14
• sexual exploitation of a child, or
• failure to provide the necessities of life.
When you contact a child welfare officer, your name will be kept confidential and will not be disclosed without your consent, unless authorized by law. The child protection officer will inform the person making the report whether he/she will be advised of the outcome of the assessment of the case.
A child welfare officer at the Ministry of Children and Family Development can be contacted in the following way:
During working hours (Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 4.30pm) call:
• The local Ministry of Children and Family Development office – listed in the blue pages of the phone book or online at
• Call Enquiry BC – Vancouver. Tel: 604 660-2421 for a local Ministry of Children and Family Development office near you.
• The closest office is located at 11th floor, 1177 West Broadway, Vancouver, BC, V6H 1G3.
Tel: 604 660-5437.
After hours, or if you are not sure who to call:
• Phone the Helpline for Children. Tel: 310-1234 at any time of the day or night. The Helpline call is free. You do not need an area code and you do not have to give your name.
• In Vancouver, North Shore, Richmond. Tel: 604 660-4927
• In the Lower Mainland, Burnaby, Delta, Maple Ridge, Langley. Tel: 604 660-8180
• In any community in BC. Tel: 1 800-663-9122
Part VI. If You Suspect Child Abuse or Neglect at CENTURY
At CENTURY, the Principal is the designated school official who bears the responsibility of ensuring prompt reporting of suspected child abuse or neglect. If the Principal is not on campus, this responsibility rests with the Vice Principal or designate. If you suspect a case of child abuse or neglect, report the disclosure and any information collected promptly to a child welfare worker and notify the Principal or designate.
Do not contact parents or offender – the child welfare worker and/or the police will contact the parents; the police will contact the alleged offender when a criminal investigation is taking place.
If you are not sure if a case warrants reporting, you can contact a child welfare officer to discuss the situation.
Call the police if the child is in immediate danger, and/or an alleged criminal offence has occurred.
Fill a Child Abuse or Neglect Incident Report and submit to the Principal for confidential records.
Part VII. CENTURY Follow up Actions to the Reporting
1. All persons involved in the case should maintain confidentiality, and not discuss details of the alleged incident, to protect the privacy of both the child and the person who reported.
2. To maintain confidentiality, restrict information regarding an allegation of child abuse only with those persons who have a legitimate reason for receiving the information, i.e. child welfare officer, the police, the Principal or designate.
3. All information regarding a reported allegation of child abuse or neglect should be properly documented, and filed in a separate file with access restricted to authorized personnel only. A note is to be made on the student file to refer authorized personnel to the central file on “Child Abuse” cases.
4. All information disclosed, or written in the Child Abuse and Neglect Incident Report should be treated in the strictest confidence.
5. The Principal ensures that no school employee/volunteer interferes with any investigations. If deemed necessary, the Principal reports to the British Columbia College of Teachers, or the Inspector of Independent Schools, when the school authority dismisses, suspends, or otherwise disciplines a certified teacher.
6. The student needs to be supported emotionally and monitored for signs of stress. If necessary, refer him/her for counseling.
Part VIII. Responding to Alleged Abusive Behavior at CENTURY by a Student
Abusive behavior by a student may occur in class, on school premises, or while the student is at recess or lunch.
At CENTURY, the Principal is responsible for ensuring a safe school environment while children are in attendance at CENTURY and/or participating in school activities. The Principal must be notified about any abusive behavior occurring at school.
Please also refer to the Anti-Bullying Policy in this Handbook.
There is no need to report:
• normal sexual play or exploration between students of similar ages.
• minor altercation or aggression between students.
• any other activity that is within the bounds of normal childhood behavior.
Part IX. Safety on the Internet
1. the Internet opens the classroom to the exploitation of students by unscrupulous adults.
2. child exploiters will use apparently innocent and clever ways to entice the student via the Internet.
1. most of our computers are on the Lynux platform which is able to block unnecessary download and minimize unwanted content or intruders.
2. we should supervise when students are surfing; ensure they visit appropriate sites and use chat rooms safely.
3. if students start messaging or bulletin board items that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent or threatening, stop them right away and explain to them the proper use of the Internet.
4. we should encourage students that they must tell if they are approached, or if they sense that a contact is inappropriate.
Internet Safety Tips for Students:
1. Do not give out personal information like your name, school, address or phone number or put your picture on a web page.
2. Not everyone you meet in a chat room is who they say they are (e.g. a 53-year-old may pretend to be a 12-year-old)
3. Do not share home, school or personal problems with anyone on the Internet.
4. If someone harasses you online or makes you feel uncomfortable in any way, tell your teacher or parent(s) and/or see an advisor for help.
1. Supporting Our Students: A Guide for Independent School Personnel Responding to Child Abuse, Office of the Inspector of Independent Schools, BC Ministry of Education, 2006.
2． The BC Handbook for Action on Child Abuse and Neglect, for Service Providers. BC Ministry of Children and Family Development. 2007
3．Responding to Child Welfare Concerns – Your Role in Knowing When and What to Report. BC Ministry of Children and Family Development. 2007