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The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide general information on a wide variety of legal issues in the Province of Alberta. This service is provided by Calgary Legal Guidance funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation.
This topic discusses child abuse. It describes the action that should be taken when it is suspected that a child is being abused or mistreated.
Child abuse will endanger the development, security or survival of a child. It includes physical harm, sexual activity of any kind, emotional abuse, neglect and the failure to provide proper food, clothing, shelter and other necessities of life. The abuser may be a stranger, a trusted adult such as a neighbor, a friend, or a parent.
The Alberta Child Welfare Act requires that all reasonable suspicions of child abuse or neglect be reported. Failure to report is an offence under this Act. You name will be kept confidential. No one is liable for making a report that proves to be false unless the report was motivated by spite or malice.
The safety of the abused child is most important. Find a safe place for the child to stay and call the police or R.C.M.P. to tell them about the abuse. You may also call a 24-hour confidential hotline at 1-800-387-5437 to tell them a child is in need of protective services. They will tell you what to do next. If you are sheltering a child who fears abuse, do not let the child leave your company until the authorities arrive. This is critical where the abuser may be the parent. Obtain medical assistance if the child’s injuries require immediate attention.
If a child talks about physical or sexual abuse, listen carefully but do not press the child for detailed information about the abuse. Call the Child Welfare Authorities and the police immediately. The child must be protected and comforted until their arrival. The police will ask the appropriate questions under appropriate conditions. If you interfere, the investigation may be hampered and the success of the Court case can be jeopardized.