Call 911 if you or the person you are reporting is in immediate danger.
Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-387-5437 (KIDS) to get help if you, or children you know, are being neglected, abused or sexually exploited. If you believe a child is at risk, you must report it. Help is available in multiple languages 24/7.
Child abuse, neglect and exploitation have many different warning signs. Learn to recognize them.
How we assess the concern
Child Intervention assesses every call or referral we receive about your child’s well-being or safety. We respond to each concern to determine if they may need intervention. This happens in 2 parts.
Part 1. Intake
We quickly assess if the concern meets the legal definitions of abuse or neglect described in the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act(CYFEA).
If so, a caseworker will gather as much information as possible to help us understand your child, your family and what supports are needed. This may include talking with:
- the person who reported the concern
- you and any other parents or guardians
- daycare staff
- police officers
- other professionals
- community members such as representatives from a First Nation
- extended family
- neighbours or family friends
- any other people in contact with your child or youth
We use all the information we gather to help decide if the intake can be:
- Closed – this means safety concerns are not present or that we can help resolve them through community programs that provide support with parenting, lifestyle choices, family violence or other topics.
- Opened to formal assessment – this means there may be a concern for your child’s well-being and more information is needed. This process is called a safety assessment.
Part 2. Safety assessment
Caseworkers will spend time working with you and gathering more information to determine if your child or youth is safe, and what supports you need. This may include talking with:
- you and any other parents or guardians
- your children
- relatives, teachers, police or others in your community
The safety assessment can take 40 or more days, unless the concern is urgent. This allows a caseworker to:
- visit your children in your home
- talk to you about the reasons we are involved
- talk to you about your concerns and ask you to share your thoughts
- ask you what is going well, and where your family could use some help
- talk to your children, both alone and in your presence, if they are old enough to talk
- talk to other people connected to your child
- determine who else is in your life that can help
We use this information to decide what to do next. There are 2 options. Your file can be:
- closed – this means we can help you resolve any concerns through referrals to community programs and help you develop a plan that describes what you and your family can do to keep your child safe at home
- opened to legal status – this means the concern has not been resolved, so we will take further steps to work with your family and support your child’s safety and well-being
Know your rights. Find out about parental and child rights with child intervention services.
If your child is safe
After we have gathered information and talked with you and your family, we may decide that your child is safe. We will close the file and end our involvement with your family.
Your caseworkers may help you connect with other services to support you, if needed. Some examples include:
- parenting supports, courses and tips
- programs on family life, family violence, parenting, healthy lifestyle choices, self-awareness and personal growth
- counselling services
If there are safety concerns
After we have gathered information and talked with you and your family, we may decide that you require additional support to keep your child safe and home. This is called legal status. Your caseworkers may:
- help you develop a safety plan you both agree on – it will be based on your family’s strengths and the supports you need to help keep your child safe at home
- ask you to participate in meetings with people who can support you
- ask you to work with us and possibly other services to make your home safer
- want to stay involved with your family to make sure that you have the right supports to keep your child safe
There are 2 ways for us to stay involved with your family:
- Family Enhancement Agreement – this is a legal agreement between you and us that describes:
- your agreement to work with us to keep your child safe at home
- a plan for what needs to happen to improve the situation, what each person must do and how long it may take
- what we can or will do to help support and monitor your progress
- what will happen if you are unable to meet the requirements
- Supervision Order – this is a court order and is only used when we cannot reach an agreement on a plan to keep your child safe. It sets the terms you must follow to keep your child safe at home, such as:
- getting counselling
- completing parenting classes, addictions treatment or other programs
- going for regular drug testing
The Supervision Order:
- states how long you must comply with the terms (usually 6 months)
- may give us permission to visit your home unannounced
When the Supervision Order ends, we may:
- end our involvement with your family and close your file when your child is safe in your care, or
- keep your file open
- apply for another Supervision Order, or
- ask you to sign a Family Enhancement Agreement
If your child comes into care
Our top priority is to keep families together whenever safely possible. Sometimes we may decide that it is best for the child to be outside of your home while we work with you to address concerns. When this happens, we may place them in care.
While your child is in care, we work with you and your supports to address concerns and get them home as soon as possible.
We will also develop a plan for your child. This happens with input from them, you and your family, and other people who are important to them. The plan makes sure your child is supported by:
- providing them with stability and continuing care
- keeps them connected to their family, community and culture
- respecting their heritage, culture and religion
- helping them feel secure and develop healthy long-term relationships
If your child is in immediate danger, they may be placed in emergency care for up to 10 days. This may happen when a parent or guardian:
- cannot be located
- is sick, injured, harmed or unable to provide proper care
- has died and there is no one to care for the child
Emergency caregivers can be people already known to the child such as neighbours, relatives or other people with a relationship with your child. Depending on the situation, your child may be returned to you, or placed in temporary or permanent care following emergency care.
This is when we take your child into care on a short-term, temporary basis while we help you address concerns.
Taking a child into temporary care must be supported by the courts. Your caseworker has 2 legal options:
- Custody Agreement with Guardian or Youth – we ask you to sign an agreement with us when you agree your child needs to be placed in temporary care. It says:
- you choose to work with us to improve your situation so your child can return home safely
- what you agree to do and how long you need to do it
- how and when you may see your child
- how we can help support your progress
- what will happen if you are unable to do what was agreed to
- Apprehension Order and Temporary Guardianship Order – we can apply to the court if you are not in support of your child being placed in short-term care and we are worried about their safety. When these orders are granted, the court states:
- the conditions you must meet like drug testing, a parenting assessment, domestic violence education or other programs
- if, how and when you may see your child
- the maximum time your child can remain in temporary care, which is from 6 to 18 months depending on their age
- what will happen if conditions are not met
If your child has been in emergency or temporary care for a period of time and the safety concerns still exist, they may be placed in permanent care.
This is usually done through a Permanent Guardianship Order. We can apply to the courts for this order if you do not support your child being placed in permanent care. When it is granted, the court states:
- you must give up guardianship and parental responsibilities for your child
- another person or 2 or more people may become your child’s guardian – they may be related to you, or not
- you give up parental rights
- care options for the child
We work with you, your support network and community agencies to support your family and find the right permanent care option for your child’s needs. Our focus is always on providing the right supports for child’s safety and well-being.
The following placement options are available for your child, depending on your situation:
This is when your child stays with extended family, a close family friend or someone else with a strong connection to your child. We try to place children with kinship caregivers whenever safely possible. They must be approved by Children’s Services and will:
- provide your child with love and take care of their daily needs in a familiar setting
- help support your child’s cultural, family and community connections
- support your child in building positive self-esteem and healthy relationships within your family
- work as a team with your child, you and your extended family and support network, your caseworker and other professionals
Find out more about kinship care and how to become a kinship caregiver.
When there are no friends or family members who can safely care for your child, we ask well-trained foster families to provide a safe home. Foster caregivers are carefully screened. They will:
- meet your child’s day-to-day needs, including physical, emotional, spiritual and cultural needs
- honour your child’s beliefs, connections and culture
- participate in the planning and work as a team with your child, you and your extended family, support network, caseworker and other professionals
- support and help arrange appropriate contact between your family and your child
Find out about foster care and how to become a foster caregiver.
Together, we may decide to place your child in community-based group care when foster or kinship care cannot meet their unique needs. Group care is provided in a homelike setting in a house or facility that is licensed and accredited by Children’s Services. Qualified caregivers are available around the clock. They support your child by:
- taking care of daily needs and activities including recreation, visits with family or friends and transportation to school, work and appointments
- responding to developmental, emotional, cultural and trauma-related needs
- working as a team with you, your child, your extended family and support network, and your caseworker and other professionals to support healing, well-being and positive outcomes
- helping you and other caregivers develop skills and supports to meet your child’s unique needs at home
- providing aftercare programs when your child returns to their home community
Every child is unique, and some have complex needs. Working with you, health professionals and others, we may consider placing your child in specialized care if a foster or kinship caregiver cannot manage their complex needs. This may include temporarily placing your child with a specialized facility or caregiver. We work as a team with our government partners to help you, your family and other caregivers with skills and aftercare programs to support your child when they return home.
Treatment facility care
When kinship, foster or group care cannot meet your child’s unique needs, we may place them in a treatment facility. Highly-trained staff provide specialized 24-hour care to help your child with complex emotional, behavioural or trauma-related challenges that affect daily living. Through teamwork and our support, you and your family will also learn ways to heal and care for your child when they return home.
Supported independent living
If your child is 16 years or older, we will sometimes support them to live alone or with an adult roommate while they develop independence. This support may include:
- a place to live
- health care
- financial assistance
- programs to build life skills such as handling daily household responsibilities, money and time management
- health, education and employment supports
Supports for children in care
During their time in care, your child will receive a variety of services, supports, supervision and guidance based on their age and unique needs. This may include:
- medical, dental and vision care
- counselling and mental health supports
- cultural planning supports to stay connected with their home community and/or culture
- support to develop and maintain relationships with friends, family and mentors such as Big Brothers, Big Sisters
- disability services like speech therapy, aide support, specialized equipment
- child care
- access to their family and home community
- a recreation allowance for things like sports fees, music lessons or movies
- registered education savings plan (RESP) in their name and annual contributions while in care
- Supports for financial assistance
- Advancing Futures Bursary for post-secondary education
Children and youth in care may also receive advocacy support and legal representation through the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate.
When children leave care
Adoption and private guardianship
Most children are able to leave care and return to their family. When this is not possible, children still have a right to be a legal part of a family. We work to find an alternative legal connection that provides the child with lifelong safety and well-being, while keeping them connected to their culture, parents and other significant people in their lives.
- the family who provided kinship or foster care adopts or obtains private guardianship of your child or becomes their guardian
- your child is matched for adoption with an Alberta family who has been trained and approved by Children’s Services
- your child is matched for adoption or guardianship with a family in another province who has a strong relationship with them – this only happens if there is no suitable family in Alberta
Support for young adults
We offer social, emotional and financial supports for young people who have been involved with child intervention and are now past the age of 18. These include:
- Support and Financial Assistance Agreements for young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 to help them create a lifelong network of relationships to support them into adulthood and beyond. (Note: Effective April 1, 2020, Support and Financial Assistance Agreements eligibility will be 18 years of age to 22 years of age).
- The Advancing Futures Bursary for youth as they pursue post-secondary studies. It helps 18- to 24-year-olds with:
- social and emotional supports
- financial assistance
- life skills to transition to adulthood
- supports to be successful in school