What Youth Want To Know

Your feelings are important and no problem is too small.

One thing that child protection workers look for when they speak to young people is whether or not they feel safe.  If something is happening to you that makes you feel unsafe, tell a trusted adult such as a teacher, a relative, a doctor, or a neighbour. You can also call the police, your local child protection agency, or Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868). If you’re in an emergency situation, you should call 911. You should tell someone how you are feeling so you can get help.

There are many forms of child abuse, such as sexual, emotional, and physical abuse. Neglect is also a form of mistreatment. So is witnessing domestic violence, such as watching parents throw dishes at each other. You can be abused by someone other than an adult, such as a sibling, a cousin, or a neighbour. For more information about the different kinds of child abuse, please see the question, What is child abuse and neglect?.  

Child abuse happens when a parent, guardian or caregiver mistreats, abuses, or neglects a child, resulting in:

  • injury, or
  • significant emotional or psychological harm, or
  • serious risk of harm to the child.

Child abuse can take many different forms.

Physical abuse is the use of force to any part of a child or youth’s body, which results, or may result, in a non-accidental injury. It might involve a one-time-only event, or it might involve many events that take place over time (a pattern of events). Physical abuse also includes taking damaging actions towards a child such as:

  • shaking
  • choking
  • biting
  • kicking
  • burning
  • poisoning
  • holding under water
  • or any other harmful or dangerous use of force or restraint

Sexual abuse:

  • occurs when a child or youth is used for sexual purposes by an adult caregiver, an adolescent or another child;
  • involves exposing a child or youth to sexual activity or behaviour;
  • often includes fondling;
  • may include inviting the child or youth to touch or be touched sexually.

Other forms of sexual abuse include sexual intercourse, child prostitution, and taking pictures of children or youth in ways that exploit them sexually (pornography). Sexual abuse is often accompanied by other forms of emotional abuse or mistreatment.

Neglect happens when a child or youth’s basic needs are not met by the child or youth’s parents, guardian or caregiver. It happens when a child or youth is abandoned, or when basic care is not provided, such as food, clothing, housing, cleanliness, medical or dental care and protection from harm.

Emotional abuse involves an attack on a child or youth’s sense of self by a child’s parent, guardian or caregiver. Emotional abuse is usually part of a long-term problem or pattern in the way a parent treats a child. It is often part of a pattern of family stress that can involve other forms of abuse as well. Constantly insulting, humiliating or rejecting a child, or saying that a child is “stupid” or “bad,” can harm the child’s sense of worth or self-confidence and is abusive.

Other forms of emotional abuse include isolating a child from others, exploiting, terrorizing, or routinely making unreasonable demands on a child.

Some provinces in Canada include children witnessing violence between adults in the home (domestic violence) as a form of emotional abuse. 

*The answers to these questions are taken from the government of Canada’s National Clearinghouse on Family Violence. More information can be found by clicking on this link: www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/ncfv-cnivf/familyviolence/html/nfntsnegl_e.html.

When child protection workers receive calls, they are able to put you and/or your family in touch with resources in their community who can help them with their problems. The kinds of things that will happen after your call will depend on such things as whether your family has had previous contact with child protection agencies, how old you are, and what the call is about. The first priority is always to make sure you are safe. If there are concerns about your safety, the child protection worker will talk to you and your family separately to determine if you are safe to stay at home. 

The first thing that child protection workers will do is to see if you are safe in your home. Most of the time, you can stay at home while child protection workers meet with your family. If it isn’t safe for you to stay home and you need to leave your home, you will sometimes get a say in where you live. In many situations, the first choice would be having you stay with someone who is close to you, such as a family friend or relative.

If you are in the care of a child protection agency, you have the following rights* :

  • the right to participate in important decisions that are made about your life,
  • the right to privacy;
  • the right to visit with your family, unless a judge (or in some cases, your child protection worker) decides that it's not good for you to visit your family;
  • the right to receive good care, including nutritious meals, education, regular medical and dental care, clothing, and taking part in after-school recreational activities;
  • the right to freedom from physical abuse or punishment, and from emotional, sexual, and verbal abuse;
  • the right to practice your religion, and to receive religious teaching;
  • the right to participate in activities that are important to your culture and heritage;
  • the right to have your individuality respected, including ability, sexual orientation, and gender identification.

* Please be aware that your rights will vary from one province and territory to another to some extent. Depending on where you live, you may not have all of these rights but you will have many of them.  In many provinces/territories, you can also get in touch with the Children’s Advocate if you need more information about your rights. Click here to find who can help you learn your rights in your province or territory.

If you have been abused or mistreated, there is help available. You can find out more information about how to get help by calling your local child protection agency, or get in touch with Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868). In many communities there are specific programs for different cultural groups.

You should report it again.  It can be very hard to have to repeat your story, but you should keep telling someone so that things will get better for you. You should tell a trusted adult, such as a teacher, a relative, or a neighbour. You can also call the police, call  Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868), or call your area’s local child protection agency. You should know that everyone has a duty to report child abuse under the law. Also, professionals who work with children, like doctors, teachers and the police, have an extra responsibility to report suspected child abuse. 

You have the right to have personal details about your life remain private. Although your teacher or principal might need to know that you are in a foster home because you have moved, they will not know the reason. Your child protection worker and foster parent will talk with you about what information you want to tell people. Sometimes kids call their foster parents their “aunt” or “uncle”. Foster parents and workers want to make sure that you feel comfortable and that you aren’t embarrassed or isolated from your friends so they will work with you to make sure you feel comfortable.

Child protection agencies are responsible for finding good foster parents. Foster parents are usually very experienced at parenting. The child protection agency that hires them gives them special training, licenses them, and sets guidelines to make sure their homes are safe places where children are well cared for. Each foster family is assigned a support worker to make sure that they get the support they need to safely care for children. If you are placed in a foster home, you can be certain that it has been approved by the child protection agency as a safe place, and your foster parents and your child protection agency share a responsibility to ensure that all the guidelines are being followed. 

If you need to come into the care of the child welfare system, child protection workers try to make this as easy as possible. They will make every effort to find out more things about you, such your favourite foods, activities, and any allergies or health problems you have, so they can tell the people with whom you will be living. They will try to make sure that you get to take items that are important to you.  Most of the time, you will be able to bring your clothing and special items like your bike or your favourite toy.

While you are in care, you have a specific worker whose job is to make sure you are okay.  If you aren’t happy, you should talk to this person.  If you don’t feel like your worker is helping you, you can talk to your worker’s supervisor.  If for whatever reason you don’t feel comfortable talking to your worker or his or her supervisor, you can contact your provincial or territorial Children’s Advocate.  Not all provinces have this person, but if you click here, you can find out the appropriate person to talk to in your area.

There is no minimum age for you to get help.  However, there is a maximum age.  The maximum age is different across Canada, and is often referred to as “age of protection”.  Below is a chart to help you understand what the maximum age is in your province or territory:

Province or Territory

Definition of child for purposes of protection

 Newfoundland and Labrador

 under 16 years old

 Prince Edward Island

 under 16 years old

 Nova Scotia

 under 16 years old

 New Brunswick

 under 16 years old


 under 18 years old


 under 16 years old


 under 18 years old


 under 16 years old


 under 18 years old

 British Columbia

 under 19 years old


 under 19 years old

 Northwest Territories

 under 16 years old


 under 16 years old

 * Note: Children with disabilities are eligible for protective services until age 19.