When you work with the ministry on your child’s plan of care, there are different stages in the process. See below for how COVID-19 affects hearings, conferences, and trials.
If you’re scheduled for a child protection case conference
All court proceedings are currently being held virtually, by telephone or by video conference through the online platform MS Teams. Even though you may be attending court virtually, you're still expected to follow courtroom etiquette. This means that during your court proceeding, you're expected to dress appropriately (if you are attending by video), and you're not allowed to smoke or vape, or to eat or to drink any liquids other than water.
If you're calling into court through telephone conference or MS Teams, make sure to mute yourself while waiting for your court matter to be dealt with.
The Provincial Court website has a guide to video and telephone conferences. The court links for calling in to attend court are the same as for regular list days. If you're unsure of the call-in information, you can contact the court registry before your court date to ask for it. See the Provincial Court website to find contact information for each court registry.
Child protection trials
At this time, all child protection trials are taking place in person at the designated courthouse (unless you're told differently by the court). Arrive early at the courthouse on your trial day. Once you're in the courthouse, a sheriff will tell you where to wait for your trial. Limited numbers of people are allowed in court rooms, so follow the sheriff's directions and wait in the approved areas.
As of April 11, 2022, health screening is not required to enter the courthouse. There is also no requirement for physical distancing, and no capacity limits at courthouses. All courtrooms still have plexiglass barriers.
Wearing a face mask in Provincial Court buildings is recommended. It’s not required unless the judge, judicial justice, or justice of the peace requires people to wear masks in their courtroom. Face masks and hand sanitizer will be available.
See the Provincial Court’s COVID-19 page for up-to-date information about court operations and public health precautions.
If your child has been removed and you have a date for a court hearing
If your child has been removed, your matter will be scheduled to appear in court within 7 days of the removal. This first court appearance, called a presentation hearing, will go ahead at the scheduled time and day (or on the court list day) by phone or by MS Teams. Call-in information for each list day is the same for each courthouse. If you have the call-in information and your matter is going to proceed on another day, the call-in information will be the same (unless court staff tell you otherwise).
If you aren’t sure what type of court appearance you have
Contact your social worker or your lawyer to check for any upcoming court dates. It’s important to not miss your court hearing. If you don’t have access to a telephone, talk to your social worker or lawyer to find a solution. In some courthouses, court rooms are open to people to attend in person; although it's recommended that you call in or attend by MS Teams.
If you need help with your case
Whatever is happening with your court matter, you can get help. If there's a Parents Legal Centre (PLC) in your community, call them to get help by phone. PLCs provide free lawyers and advocates to help parents deal with a social worker's concerns about their children's safety. You can call the Legal Aid BC Call Centre to apply for legal aid (1-866-577-2525). You can also see the Legal Aid BC website to find legal aid services in your community.
Foster care visits during COVID-19
The Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) is still providing in-person visits during the pandemic. The length and frequency of your visits will depend on several factors, including whether your visits need to be professionally supervised, supervised by a family member, or can occur in the community or your family home.
Public health restrictions are still changing and may vary between communities. Your social worker will assess how visits will continue to occur safely. It's important that you talk to your social worker or lawyer to determine how you'll see your children and to advocate for more access.