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child abuse & neglect

What is child abuse?

Child abuse means physically or emotionally harming a child, sexually molesting a child, failing to provide proper care or depriving a child of support and affection. We have simplified the language contained in the Child and Family Services Act, the law that gives Children's Aid Societies their authority. For more details, you can read the Child and Family Services Act.

What is child abuse? 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 the GTA, 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. You may call us anonymously if you wish.

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: most parents and caregivers don’t intend to neglect their children. Instead, 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 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 They might be wary of adults and extremely aggressive or extremely withdrawn.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 damages self-esteem and the concept of “self.” This type of behaviour might include constant yelling, demeaning remarks, rejection or isolation. 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 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 to an intake worker who is specially trained to listen to your concerns and ask questions before deciding how urgent the situation is and what type of investigation is needed. If a child is in imminent danger, a social 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 supervisor 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.

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