The Child and Family Services Act tries to strike a balance between services to children and services to families. The Act strongly encourages agencies to help families stay together and to provide services aimed at avoiding the need to remove children from their home. Sometimes these services are not enough and crises may arise that require immediate action to protect children.
Under the Act, agencies are required to take appropriate action to protect children. They have the right and a duty to take any of a number of steps to ensure the safety of children and protect them from neglect or abuse.
It is sometimes necessary for agencies to apprehend children (take them into care) to ensure their protection. Once a child is apprehended, the law requires an agency to follow certain steps. If the child is not returned home, the agency must apply to a court for a hearing, called a child protection hearing. This normally must be done within four juridical days (days on which the court office is open) of the apprehension. Usually a hearing will be held within 30 days of an application.
When a child is apprehended, an agency is required to make reasonable effort to notify the parents or guardian of the apprehension. If the agency does not return the child to the family and proceeds to court, the parents or guardian have a right be notified of the date of the hearing. Normally agencies must give 2 clear days notice.
During the time the child is under apprehension, the parents or guardians may be allowed visits pending the hearing. If the parents disagree with the agency’s conditions for visits, they may ask the court to determine appropriate access provision.
An agency need not remove a child from the home to apprehend. The child may be left in the home in care of parents or guardian, or returned home pending the protection hearing. In such cases, the child is deemed to be still under apprehension for purposes of the hearing.
In child abuse cases, an agency may ask the court to order the alleged abuser to leave the family home and/or not to contact the child. This is a separate action from a child protection hearing.
Manitoba law tries to keep children from remaining in temporary care for long periods and ensure that the cases of children in agency care are constantly subject to review. Under the Child and Family Services Act, the Director of Child and Family Services and agencies must review, at least once a year, the care and treatment of all children they are looking after. Plans for the permanent placement of children must also be reviewed.