Most calls received by the local Children’s Aid Society branch are from people reporting suspicions of child abuse and neglect.
This is a similar case for other CAS branches across the city. Calls from the police about domestic violence cases when children are involved are also common.
“We really depend on the community and professional s to be our eyes and ears,” says Phil Howe, director of the Scarborough branch Children’s Aid of Toronto.
Their office is located at 843 Kennedy Road and serves the former city of Scarborough, including the Malvern and Westhill community. This is the fastest growing part of Toronto.
“From 1995 to 2005 the number of children [in this area] grew by 12.6 per cent,” says Howe. “That’s almost three times greater than the rest of Toronto.”
As part of one of the country’s largest child welfare organizations, the Scarborough branch of CAS is currently working with 700 families. This figure includes families who are undergoing counseling or who need help with a troubled teen.
October is Child Abuse Prevention month and the public is being encouraged to “use your voice” by the province’s Children’s Aid Societies.
“People don’t need proof, just a reasonable suspicion.”
Howe reminds the community they are required by law to report suspected cases of child abuse or neglect.
Despite efforts to protect children, a report by the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies published earlier this month revealed that 27,000 children were the victims of abuse and neglect last year.
Lee-Anne C. has been a counsellor at Kids’s Help Phone for the past year, and says they get a lot of calls from abused children who want to tell someone, but don’t know how to do it.
“We’re usually the first contact for kids. They’re usually trying to figure out what has happened, if it’s their fault and what they can do.”
While callers may remain anonymous, the 24-hour help line is legally obligated to report child abuse if a caller provides their name and location.
Statistics show 8 per cent of all calls are related to cases of child abuse, 15 per cent are about family issues and 12 per cent are about mental health.
“A lot of the time they are experiencing mental health issues, which are sometimes related to abuse. They call and say they’re feeling down and later on in the call disclose they are being abused which obviously contributes to their mood,” Lee-Anne says.
She says the abuse calls are some of the most difficult ones to handle. Victims of physical and sexual abused seem to be getting younger.
“We really have to work with them to let them it’s not their fault and it isn’t right,” says Lee-Anne.
Signs that a child may be suffering from abuse include inexplicable injuries and withdrawn or fearful behaviour. To report a suspicion call the Scarborough branch of Children’s Aid Society at 416-924-4646.
Kids’s Helphone can be reached at 1-888-668-6868.