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What is child abuse?


A child is in need of protection is a child who is under the age of 18 who has experienced, or is at risk of experiencing abuse or neglect.

Section 125 of the Child, Youth and Family Services Act specifies the ways in which a child under the age of 18 years may be in need of protection; this may ne as a result of actions of inactions of the person having charge of that child.

Types of harm include:

  • Neglect

  • Physical Harm

  • Emotional Harm

  • Exposure to Intimate Partner Violence

  • Sexual Abuse, including Sex Trafficking

It's your duty to report child abuse.

Every adult in Ontario has a legal obligation to report child abuse to a Children’s Aid Society. Jewish Family and Child Service is the Children’s Aid Society for the Jewish community in Toronto and York Region, so if you know or suspect that a Jewish child is being abused, call us right away at 416 638-7800, 24 hours a day.  If the office is closed, an on-call child protection worker can always be reached at 1-800-404-1393.

We all share a responsibility to protect children from harm; a responsibility that extends to those situations where children suffer abuse and neglect in their own homes.

You don't need to be sure.

If you suspect that a child is being abused/neglected, call us. It is our job to figure out if what is happening is abuse/neglect. 
While the presence of any one sign is not proof that a child has been abused, it’s important to know what to look for. In many cases, children will show a number of physical and behavioural indicators. Child abuse has many faces. Here are some of the most common signs:

Neglect is usually the result of a lack of knowledge or understanding about parenting and an inability to plan ahead. When there is a pattern where the caregiver fails to provide basic needs such as food, sleep, safety, supervision, appropriate clothing or medical treatment, that’s neglect. Children suffering neglect are often pale, listless and unkempt. They frequently miss school and may show up dressed inappropriately or in dirty clothes.


Physical Abuse is when a child is, or could be, injured or harmed by his or her caregiver, or when the caregiver fails to do something to protect the child. Injuries include bruises, cuts, burns, and fractures. Children who are physically abused often can’t remember how injuries happened or they offer inconsistent stories when questioned. They might be wary of adults and extremely aggressive or extremely withdrawn.


Emotional Abuse happens when a caregiver treats a child in an extremely negative way that could damage self-esteem and the concept of “self.” This type of behaviour might include constant yelling, demeaning remarks, rejection or isolation. A child can also be emotionally harmed by being exposed to domestic violence or other forms of adult conflict.  Emotional abuse can be difficult to identify, but some behavioural indicators include inhibition in play, severe depression and extreme withdrawal or aggressiveness. Children may complain of headaches, nausea or abdominal pain.


Sexual Abuse is any sexual exploitation of a child by a caregiver or someone else and includes sexual touching, procuring sexual activity from a child, exposing genitals to a child, exposing or engaging a child in pornography, and incest. Signs that a child has been sexually abused include excessive itching in the genital or anal areas, torn, stained or bloody underwear and injuries to the genital area. Behavioural signs include age inappropriate sexually explicit drawings, displaying sexual acts or unusual sexual knowledge.

How do I report child abuse?

If you know that a child is being abused or you suspect that a child is at risk of being harmed, it’s time to call us. We are available 24 hours a day to talk about your concerns, and the information you give us, including your identity, will remain confidential where possible. Remember, you don’t need to be sure. It is our job to figure out if what is happening is child abuse. You may call us anonymously if you wish. When you call, you will speak with a call agent to who is trained to listen to your concerns and ask questions to determine what type of intervention is needed. If intervention is required, your call will be directed to a child protection worker who will gather all necessary information. If a child is in imminent danger, a child protection worker will respond immediately.

Our child protection workers are professionals who evaluate your information using comprehensive guidelines to determine the risk in each situation. A typical investigation will include checking a computer database to see if the family or child has been involved with a Children’s Aid Society in the past. Many factors are considered when determining how to investigate your concerns, including the age of the child, presence of physical injuries and other red flags that might indicate abuse.

Every report received by the CAS is reviewed by a child protection worker who then consults
with a manager to determine what action should be taken. Most calls that require further investigation fall into two categories -- those that must be responded to within 12 hours, and those that must be followed up within 7 days. Individual circumstances and level of risk for the children involved determine the response times.


Please remember - if you know or suspect that a child is being neglected or abused,
call us immediately at 416.638.7800 x 6234. Outside of regular business hours, please call our after-hours answering service at 1-800-404-1393 to be redirected to one of our staff.

Ontario raises age of protection to 18

As of January 1, 2018, the Child and Family Services Act will be amended to raise the maximum age of protection of youth to 18.  Read more

child abuse & neglect

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