Can a CAS worker interview my child without my permission and What are the Parental rights of Parents with Special Needs Children?
Does a CAS worker have the right to interview my 14 yrs old daughter with severe learning disabilities, ADHD and ODD without my consent after I have notified the school in writing that they are not to hold these interviews on the school property? If the information they gathered while interviewing my child requires them to request an in-home interview with the parents and other children, must I comply and allow them into my home? What are the parental rights of parents with special needs children in Ontario?
Yes. In Ontario, a Children’s Aid Society has the right to interview children without their parents’ consent during the course of a child protection investigation (an investigation into abuse or neglect). The school cannot stop the CAS from interviewing a child either. There may be issues as to whether a particular CAS worker is qualified to interview a child with specific special needs. However, refusing to let a child speak to a CAS worker only makes it look like you are trying to hide something and you are afraid that the child may tell the CAS that you are abusing him or her.
Whether you speak to a CAS worker yourself is a more complicated matter – and you really need to consult with a lawyer who does child protection law. If you do not cooperate with the CAS, that will be held against you. However, if the concerns are that you did something contrary to the Criminal Code, then you also have a right not to speak to the CAS because the CAS worker will tell the police every thing you say. If you are charged, you statements may be used against you in criminal court. If you do not speak, your refusal to speak to the CAS may be used against you in child protection court and make it difficult for you to get your kids back if the CAS takes them. This is a very difficult situation to be in. Child protection lawyers (the small number of family lawyers who do Children’s Aid Society cases) can give you a lot of valuable advice, specific to your situation, to try to keep you out of trouble.
Another good reason to speak to child protection lawyer right away is that there is a big advantage to having a lawyer ready to fight back right away if the Children’s Aid Society does take your kids, or starts court proceedings, or asks you to sign an agreement permitting the agency to be in your life. There is also a chapter on what to do when the children’s aid society is investigating you in this $20 easy-to-understand book on Ontario Family Law: Devry Basics Ontario Family Edition.
It really is worth your while to consult a child protection lawyer and read the book because if you get yourself into a trouble in a CAS case, it can take a long time to get yourself out and that may mean that your kids are in foster care for a long time. Getting good advice early on parental rights of parents with special needs children in Toronto can keep you out of trouble.
John Schuman is the head of the Family Law Group at Devry Smith Frank LLP, a full service law firm located near Eglinton and the Don Valley Parkway in Toronto. Learn more about John! Call him at 416-446-5080 or 416-446-5847 or email firstname.lastname@example.org