When I called the Children’s Aid Society for the first time in my teaching career, I was really nervous. I had a student disclose to me, through a writing assignment, some of the challenges they were facing at home. I was nervous about my student’s feelings after I shared this private information. I was also really worried about the family’s reaction after CAS contacted them. During this time in my career, I was really lucky. I had an amazing administrator who talked me through the process and gave me her office so that I could make the call. She taught me many things in that conversation that I have carried throughout my career.
Recently, a colleague reached out to me, who was making the call for the first time and some of the questions that came up in our conversation reminded me of the lessons that my talented administrator taught me.
When to call
Section 72(1) of the Child and Family Services Act clearly outlines 13 grounds that would trigger the requirement of a call. This section of the CFSA is outlined in ETFO’s PRS Matters “A Member’s Duty to Report Under the Child and Family Services Act”. Section 72(1) outlines many scenarios and will help you decide if you are making the right decision to call.
My administrator also reminded my staff on a regular basis that if we needed to make a call that they would have someone cover your class immediately so that you could step out to make the call. It is a requirement of Duty to Report that you do not wait.
It is also important to note that you have to call again if you continue to suspect that your student is in need of protection. This happened to me in my first year. The child continued to tell me more details throughout the remainder of the year so I had to call CAS multiple times that year.
Who to Tell That You Are Making the Call
In my experience, I have always found it to be very useful to inform my administrator that I am making the call. I have always chosen to inform my administrator of the call because if the family has a bad reaction to follow up from CAS they may come to the school very angry. I have required the support of administrators to deal with a few upset parents because of CAS calls throughout my career. It is always helpful that the principal or vice principal already knows what is going on before the parent arrives. It is important to note that a principal cannot make the call to CAS for you and they should not impact your decision to make the call.
I have also found it very useful to let a trusted colleague know that I have made a call to CAS. Worry about a student’s safety and well being is the number one reason I lose sleep at night. Sharing some of your worry with a trusted colleague can help you manage the emotional strain of concern for your student.
Who Not To Tell You are Making the Call
I have never told the parents that I made a call to CAS, even those that I have had excellent relationships with. CAS is there to protect the child and provide supports to families to help them through challenges that they might be facing. I always let CAS communicate with families supports or concerns that they may be able to assist with. They are properly trained in the area of supporting families in the community.
I also do not tell the student that I have or will be making the call. I never want the student to feel like they had any input into the decision to contact CAS. This is especially true if the parent has a bad reaction to CAS contacting them. The child could possibly feel guilt that they shared with a trusted teacher what is going on at home. I don’t want to add to their guilt. I alone own the decision to call.
After the Call
One of the hardest parts of making a call to CAS is that you will most likely not know what happened as a result of the call. During this time, you may continue to have concerns for your student’s safety or well being. It is important to use your support systems to manage this concern and stress.
If you have any questions or concerns about the process, reach out to your local ETFO office.