Parents' responsibilities

When you're involved in a child protection matter with the Ministry of Children and Family Development (the ministry) or a delegated Aboriginal agency, it's important to understand:

  • your child's rights
  • your responsibilities as a parent
In BC, a child is anyone under 19. A parent is a person responsible for a child's care.

Your child's rights

Like all children, your child deserves to be happy, healthy, and protected from harm.

Canada signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which recognizes children also have the right to:

  • go to school
  • live with their families in a safe and nurturing environment
  • have a say in decisions about them
  • stay connected with relatives
  • participate in their culture

Your responsibilities as a parent

The Child, Family and Community Service Act protects children in BC. This law says parents, or anyone responsible for a child, must make sure the child:

  • is safe
  • has enough food to eat each day
  • has clothing, shelter, and health care
  • is protected from injuries, illness, and other harm

BC law also says you must protect your child from:

  • physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse
  • neglect

What's abuse and neglect?

  • Physical abuse can be shaking, hitting, punching, pniching, or bruising a child. Any action that hurts a child can be abuse. It also includes punishments such as locking a child in a room without food, water, or a toilet for a long time. Extreme physical abuse can lead to a child's death.
  • Sexual abuse is anything sexual that happens between a child and an adult, or an older or stronger child. It also includes when an adult threatens to have sex with a child. You can't take sexual photos or videos of a child. You can't force or allow a child to watch pornography (movies or photographs about sex) or watch actual people having sex. It's also illegal to let other people have sex with a child.
  • Emotional abuse is when parents often ignore, criticize, or yell at a child. It can include threats, insults, and name-calling. Emotional abuse can make a child feel sad, anxious, and alone. It can also make a child want to hurt themselves. If children see family violence in their home, this can also make them feel afraid, and can be emotional abuse.
  • Child neglect is when parents don't give their child enough food, clothes, or medical care, or if the child doesn't have a safe place to live. Or parents leave a young child alone at home or in a car, Or parents leave a young child alone at home or in a car, or don’t protect them from risks such as hot stoves, sharp objects, alcohol, or drugs.

Duty to report child abuse

If someone thinks you're not being a good parent, or thinks your child is being harmed, the law says they must tell the ministry.

  • If you believe any child is in immediate danger, call 911 or your local police.
  • If you think any child is being abused or neglected, call the Provincial Centralized Screening team at any time. They assess child protection reports and initial requests for ministry service across BC:
    604-660-4927 (Greater Vancouver)
    1-800-663-9122 (elsewhere in BC)

The law says the ministry must follow up on all reports of child abuse or neglect. They have to investigate (find out) whether your child needs protection. They can't tell anyone the name of someone who reports abuse or neglect.

If you're having problems with parenting, it's important to ask for help. Community services and the ministry can help with parenting. Dealing with child protection issues is stressful. Make sure you get the help you need to take care of yourself.

Being a parent isn't easy. You can get help with parenting.

Updated on 13 May 2024