Child Apprehension: Policy and Process

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Legal Resource Centre of Alberta Ltd. (LRC)
Section 4 requires "any person" with "reasonable and probable grounds to believe" that a child is in need of intervention to make that report to a designated child services worker. A fine up to $2000 can be levied, and up to six months imprisonment imposed if it is not paid. Failure to report is unlikely to be prosecuted, except in the most egregious case of professional default. Families and children can also request intervention, and workers may learn of intervention needs from any other source. The practice at this point varies considerably from Justice to Justice as the application is considered. Some readily grant the Apprehension Order if the worker states she believes the child is in need of intervention. Others will note the worker's belief but inquire further to test the case for intervention. I favour the latter approach. Otherwise, the need to call a Justice for the Order would be a waste of everyone's time if the Justice was bound to do what the worker requested. The Justice must independently review the grounds for the worker's belief in the need for intervention. The state removal of a child from his or her home is a serious matter, not one to be taken lightly. I find that occasionally the worker making the telephone application, though sworn to truth, has no personal knowledge of the case being presented. He did not even try to speak to the parents, which violates the principle of minimal disruption of the family. He may not have even seen the child and I have had cases where the worker does not even know that the child exists. The basis upon which the application rests may be so slender as to constitute mere conjecture (as in "the teacher thought Johnny had a bruise on his arm") or a personal view of child-rearing that is sought to over-ride parental discretion (as in "no child should have to do all that work at home").
Bowal, Peter , "Child Apprehension: Policy and Process", Law Now, Jan/Feb 2009, Vol. 33, Iss. 3; p. 1.