Introduction to Child Protection in BC and the Law
In British Columbia, every person who is a parent or guardian of a child is legally required to look after them.
The law is written in the Child, Family and Community Service Act, or the CFCSA. The CFCSA outlines the standard that parents and guardians must meet when caring for a child, and what the government can do if a parent cannot adequately care for a child. The government takes a parent’s obligation to look after a child very seriously.
The Ministry for Children and Family Development (formerly called Social Services) is the government department that has social workers. Their job is to ensure that people care for children at a community accepted standard.
Another important law relating to families in BC is the Family Law Act. The CFCSA and the Family Law Act are two different laws and they have different purposes. The CFCSA only applies to parents who are separating or divorcing and who agree about who should look after their children.
The Family Law Act applies when parents don’t agree and ask the court to decide who should have parenting time, who should make decisions about a child, and who should pay child support. Information about these topics under the Family Law Act is found in the other publications available in this series including Child Support in BC and Learning about the Law: Family Law, Young People and the Law, Elder Law.
Under the CFCSA, a child is anyone under the age of 19. In general terms, a parent is legally required to look after a child until the child turns 19. The obligation to look after a child is financial, emotional, and physical.
Under this law, you may be considered a parent even if you are not the natural mother or father. Someone living with a child’s parent and looking after a child may be considered a parent. Someone having a court order granting parenting time or guardianship can be considered a parent under this law. This can include common law partners, grandparents, and even family friends.
A Parent's Job
Becoming a parent is a life changing event. It will likely be the most important part of your life, but it can also be a difficult, challenging job. You must meet all of your child’s physical and emotional needs. You must also put your child’s best interests ahead of your own. Parents must make sure that a child who is in their care is safe and not neglected or abused.
A child’s needs will change as they grow older. Babies and young children have different needs than teenagers, but all children have certain basic needs that a parent must meet. Whatever the age of your child, you must love, guide and provide for him or her. That includes meeting all of a child’s physical, emotional and health related needs until they are 19 years old.
It is against the law for a parent to abuse or neglect a child. It is also against the law for a parent to allow another person to abuse or neglect a child. If you know that a child is being abused or neglected, you are required to report it to the authorities. Teachers, doctors, professionals, police, or friends and family of the child must report abuse or neglect to the Ministry, regardless of who is responsible.
If you are struggling with your job as a parent, and you cannot meet your child’s basic needs, it is important that you look to other people or community groups to help support you as a parent. Asking for help can be as simple as talking to a friend or relative about the situation, or going to a community agency, your family doctor, or a government based group.
There are a wide variety of community based groups or agencies where a parent can ask for help with parenting and meeting a child’s needs. A list of some of the province wide groups available to help parents can be found in the Where to get help section at the back of this book.
|This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by People's Law School, 2014.|
|Basics of Child Support in BC © People's Law School is, except for the images, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada Licence.|