TORONTO, ON (January 20, 2016) – Common misunderstandings about privacy are frequently cited as reasons for not sharing information with a children’s aid society (CAS) about a child who may be at risk. In fact, Ontario law permits professionals working with children to share this information. To help professionals understand that privacy is not a barrier to disclosing this important information, a new guide is now available: Yes, You Can. Dispelling the Myths About Sharing Information with Children’s Aid Societies.
Produced as a result of a unique collaboration between the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth and the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, this new resource demonstrates how various pieces of legislation permit disclosure and provides answers to frequently asked questions.
In the last few years, CAS case workers have testified in a number of Coroners’ inquests about the frustration they experience when trying to obtain information from other parties. If aware that a child may be at risk of harm, CASs have the legal authority to investigate and determine whether the child is in need of protection. Despite this broad authority, health providers, police, teachers, and social service workers sometimes refuse to provide information to child protection workers, citing privacy as the reason. While it may be well-intentioned, this misguided refusal to share information is not necessary and may expose the child to danger.
The guide covers key scenarios such as:
- When may professionals disclose personal information?
- What is a professional’s duty to report?
- What are the rules surrounding a CAS investigation in a school?
- What are the obligations of health care practitioners?
- When can police officers share information with a CAS?
In all of these situations, the result is the same. Yes, you can share information to protect a child from potential harm.
“Professionals working with children must understand that privacy legislation should never stand in the way of reporting a risk of harm to a child. We hope this guide will lead to Ontario CASs getting more of the important information they need to help children at risk.”
~ Brian Beamish, Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario
“We must move to become a society in which the welfare and safety of all children are of importance to everyone. This guide moves past one impediment — in the form of a myth around privacy legislation — that prevents us from being the Province we aspire to for our children”
~ Irwin Elman, Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth