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Home  Investigations Death and Serious Bodily Harm FAQs

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

1. What does “without unreasonable delay” mean?

Agencies and service providers must notify the Advocate’s Office within 48 hours of a child or youth’s death or an incident of serious bodily harm to a child or youth.

2. What is “serious bodily harm”?

“Serious bodily harm” is defined as any harm or injury whether physical or psychological that is more than merely transient and trifling in nature and interferes in a substantial way with the health, comfort and well-being of a child/youth.

Serious bodily harm shall be presumed in cases of any physical or psychological injury resulting in service being provided to a child by a licensed medical practitioner and includes but is not limited to:

  • All fractures to any bone including fracture of the nasal structure
  • All burns excluding burns that can be treated with basic First Aid
  • All incidents of self-harm that require hospital emergency care
  • Ingestion of medication(s) or other noxious substance(s) that requires medical care
  • Serious soft tissue damage including bruising swelling and complaints of pain sustained proximal to a physical restraint or physical altercation
  • Serious head injuries including concussions or concussion like symptoms.
  • All allegations of sexual assault, sexual abuse and sexual exploitation.

Serious bodily harm also includes psychological harm. Where a young person witnesses or experiences an extraordinary acute event that is likely to cause psychological harm including but not limited to the following events; a house fire, violent events, serious accidents, this shall be considered serious bodily harm.

3. What is a transient or trifling injury?

A transient or trifling injury is any injury that does not require medical treatment nor has a significant negative impact to the health, comfort, and overall well-being of the child/youth.

4. How does the act define a parent?

The Advocate’s Office consulted with a number of stakeholders to operationalize the definition of a parent that appears in the Child and Family Services Act for the purposes of reporting a death or serious bodily harm.
For reporting purposes, the definition of who is a “parent” is as follows:
Where, at the time that the agency or service provider becomes aware of the death or the serious bodily harm incurred by a child or youth, the child or youth is in the care of the agency or service provider, the “parents” to be notified under s. 18.1(4) means:

  1. where the child is in the care of the agency or service provider by court order without access, “parent” means the children’s aid society with legal guardianship of the child in care;
  2. where the child is in the care of the agency or service provider by court order with access, “parent” means any person who has a right of access to the child;
  3. where the child is in the care of the agency or service provider pursuant to a Temporary Care Agreement under s. 29 of the Child and Family Service Act, “parent” means any person who is a signatory to the Temporary Care Agreement and any person who has a right of access to the child;
  4. where the child is not in the care of the agency or service provider, “parent” means any person who has a right of access to the child or who has a right of custody of the child or who has de facto custody of the child at the time of the death or incurrence of harm;
  5. where the child is in a Customary Care arrangement, “parent” mean the Band Representative, the children’s aid society, the guardian or parent(s), and any other party to the customary care agreement.

5. Who are the agencies and service providers required to report?

Service providers are defined within the Children and Youth Services Act to include:

  • The Minister of Children and Youth Services
  • An agency approved by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services
  • A Children’s Aid Society
  • A residential licensee, approved by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, or
  • A person who provides a service approved by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, or a person who provides a service purchased by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, or an approved agency.

A foster parent is not considered a service provider.

Agencies or service providers must inform children and youth and their families about the Advocate’s Office. Our Office will provide these agencies with our contact information, so that they can inform those who are affected.

6. Why should children and youth contact the Advocate’s Office?

All children and youth in Ontario have the right to speak to the Advocate’s Office, and to do so privately, without delay. 

The Advocate’s Office can help with issues pertaining to children and youth rights. At the Advocate’s Office, we listen to children and youth in situations where we learn that their rights have been violated. Sometimes we help them through a complaint process or we will act directly on their behalf. We help youth to ensure the youth's voice is heard by either helping them to speak on their own or by speaking on their behalf. 

 If you need help finding particular services to help you, you are always welcome to contact the Advocate’s Office, and we will do our best to help you get the information and help you need. Other agencies, including the police and the children’s aid society may decide they will conduct an investigation. The Advocate’s Office is available to provide advocacy to children and youth throughout the course of these investigations. Once these processes are complete, the Advocate’s Office may also consider conducting an investigation.

7. Why should parents contact the Advocate’s Office?

The Advocate’s Office works to encourage communication and understanding between children and families, and those who provide them with services, and to educate caregivers on the rights of children and youth. The service we provide to parents is information-based, including helping them to identify questions and areas of concern, making initial contact with service providers, and facilitating opportunities for them to raise questions and obtain information. The parent of a child or youth who died or suffered serious bodily harm may contact the Advocate’s Office for further assistance with obtaining information on the circumstance which led to the incident. In some cases, we may be able to conduct an investigation but only after investigations conducted by other bodies such as the police or a children’s aid society are complete.

8. What will the Advocate’s Office do with this information?

The Advocate’s Office will collect and monitor all incidents of serious bodily harm and child deaths reported. These incidents will be tracked for any reoccurring trends or issues, which may be explored systemically, or, in some circumstances, may lead to an investigation.

Other agencies, including the Coroner’s Office or Pediatric Death Review Committee may decide that they will conduct and investigation, or inquest, into the death of a child. Once these processes are complete, the Advocate’s Office may consider conducting an investigation.

9. How has the definition of serious bodily harm been created?

Serious bodily harm is not defined in the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth Act, 2007 (PACYA) or in the Child and Family Services Act (CFSA). The Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth (Advocate’s Office) consulted with numerous stakeholders, reviewed relevant legislation, and leading decisions from the Supreme Court of Canada to develop a comprehensive definition of serious bodily harm that responds to the needs and issues of the children and youth within the Advocate’s mandate.

10. Isn’t submitting a death and serious bodily harm report to the Advocate’s Office an administrative burden and a duplication of paperwork?

The Advocate’s Office has consulted with various stakeholders to make the reporting of death and serious bodily harm as convenient and comprehensive as possible through an online submission system. 

Reporting a death and serious bodily harm is a legal obligation for an agency or service providers of children and youth in Ontario. In order to fulfill its mandate, the Advocate’s Office requires timely and comprehensive information about deaths of, and serious injury to, children and youth receiving services from a children’s aid society in Ontario.

11. What type of involvement does a children’s aid society need to have with a child for a report to be submitted?

If a child/youth or their family has received, or sought to receive, services from a children’s aid society within the 12 months preceding their death or serious bodily harm, then a report must be submitted to the Advocate’s Office.

The definition of a service from a children’s aid society is found in section 15(3) of the Child and Family Services Act (CFSA) and includes:
- a residential or non-residential service, including a prevention service,
- a service provided under Part III of the CFSA (Child Protection),
- a service provided under Part VII of the CFSA (Adoption).

 

For further clarity, Section 15(3) of the CFSA is:

Functions of society

(3) The functions of a children’s aid society are to,

  1. 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;
  2. protect, where necessary, children who are under the age of sixteen years or are in the society’s care or under its supervision;
  3. provide guidance, counselling and other services to families for protecting children or for the prevention of circumstances requiring the protection of children;
  4. provide care for children assigned or committed to its care under this Act;
  5. supervise children assigned to its supervision under this Act;
  6. place children for adoption under Part VII; and
  7. perform any other duties given to it by this or any other Act.  R.S.O. 1990, c. C.11, s. 15 (3).

12. Do I file a report if it is a small bruise or the youth is not seen by a health care practitioner?

Harm or injury that is merely transient or trifling in nature does not need to be reported. Minor injuries such as small scratches and bruises that do not require the services and treatment of a health care practitioner do not have to be reported to the Advocate’s office.

13. What is meant by emergency medical care and hospitalization?

The Advocate’s Office is aware that some communities in Ontario have limited access to resources and medical care. A report should be completed when an injury occurs that is more than trifling in nature and may require care and medical treatment from a health care practitioner, even if that care and attention is not available.

The position of the Advocate’s Office is that if service providers are in doubt about whether a situation should or should not be reported, it should simply be reported.

14. Does an incident of serious bodily harm that occurred prior to June 10th, 2016 have to be reported?

If an event of serious bodily harm which occurred prior to June 10th, 2016 comes to the attention of a service provider after June 10th, 2016, and it was not reported to the children’s aid society, then a submission must be made to the Advocate’s Office.

However, if the event was reported to a children’s aid society complaint procedures prior to June 10th, 2016, then it does not have to be reported to the Advocate’s Office. The Advocate’s Office recommends that the service provider confirms that the incident was reported to a children’s aid society.

15. What about when children and youth experience injuries due to an accident?

A report must be completed for all accidents that result in a death or serious bodily harm.

16. Does a report need to be submitted if the death or serious injury was caused by an unknown person?

Yes, a report must be submitted regarding any death or serious bodily harm that is caused by any person, which includes, but is not limited to, a foster parent, staff member, another youth, or a health care practitioner. A report must also be submitted for any death or serious bodily harm where the cause or person responsible for the death or injury is unknown.

17. Are all instances of psychological harm or thoughts of self-harm required to be reported?

Psychological harm should be reported to the Advocate’s Office when a young person witnesses or experiences an extraordinary, acute event that may cause psychological harm including, but not limited to, house fire, violent events, and serious accidents. Such experiences are considered serious bodily harm.

The Advocate’s Office does not need to be notified in the event that a child or youth expresses thoughts of self-harm. However, if a child or youth acts on such thoughts and is hospitalized, then the Advocate’s Office should be notified as an act of self-harm is considered serious bodily harm.

18. Will every report of death and serious bodily harm be investigated?

The Advocate’s Office will collect and monitor all incidents of serious bodily harm and child deaths reported. Investigations and advocacy will be completed at the discretion of the Advocate’s Office and may commence following a review of the information.

Not all reports will require advocacy or investigation. However, incidents will be tracked for any reoccurring trends or issues, which may be explored systemically, or, in some circumstances, may lead to an investigation.

19. If there are two children’s aid societies monitoring a child or youth, who is responsible for submitting a report?

If a children’s aid society (CAS) is temporarily assisting another CAS for a short term basis, then the responsibility to report a death or serious bodily harm is with the primary CAS.

If a CAS has taken over primary responsibility for monitoring of a child or youth from another CAS, then the agency with the greatest responsibility and accountability for the child or youth is obligated to report.

20. Should I notify a parent or legal guardian of the Advocate’s Office, if the notification could negatively impact an ongoing investigation?

If notifying a parent about the Advocate’s Office would negatively impact an investigation, then immediate notification to a parent or legal guardian may not be required. However, the circumstances of the delay in notification must be detailed in the report to the Advocate’s Office.

In circumstances where the best practices for reporting is unclear, please contact the Advocate’s Office for further guidance.

21. How do we report to the Office?

The Advocate’s Office has designed an accessible online form system, which can be found here. Follow up calls are not required, the online form has been designed as a comprehensive and convenient method for reports to be submitted to the Advocate’s Office.

If you experience any issues with reporting please contact our office.

22. Is it required that both the children’s aid society and an outside paid resource (OPR) submit a report?

The Advocate’s Office requires that both the children’s aid society and the OPR submit a report of a death or serious bodily harm.

23. Do I notify the parent of the death and serious bodily harm or just about the existence of the Advocate’s Office?

The legislation only requires that parent(s) must be notified about the existence of the Advocate’s Office, and not any information regarding the death or serious bodily harm.

24. If a youth asks for their parent not to be notified in the circumstance of a death or serious bodily harm, do I still notify the parent of the existence of the Advocate’s Office?

No notification to a parent is required if the youth is aged 18 and over.

For any children under the age of 18, a parent(s) shall be informed of the existence of the Advocate’s Office.

25. If a child claims to be injured from a physical restraint, is a report necessary?

Yes, a report is required for a claim or visible injury due to a physical restraint.

26. If a child has an illness, is a report necessary?

No, a report is not required for an illness, like a cold, or treatment for a pre-existing condition such as chemotherapy, radiation or surgery. A report is still required if I child dies regardless of the circumstances.