This list explains many of the court orders and hearings for the child protection process. The child protection process is when a social worker from the Ministry of Children and Family Development (or a delegated agency) contacts you or visits your home. Sometimes the child protection process can lead to hearings and court orders.
If a social worker contacts you or visits your home, you have the right to get legal advice. If the social worker has very serious concerns, they may take your child from your home. Call Legal Aid immediately to find out if you qualify for a free lawyer.
What can I do if I'm being investigated by the ministry?
You have the right to get legal advice if a social worker from the ministry or a delegated Aboriginal agency:
- contacts you or visits your home to ask questions about your family,
- threatens to take your children away, or
- takes your children away.
Call Legal Aid
Child protection matters are covered by Legal Aid.Call Legal Aid immediately to find out if you qualify for a free lawyer. If you don't qualify for a lawyer, there are other free legal aid resources available to you.
Ask for support
You can ask for support from your Aboriginal community throughout the child protection process:
- If you're being investigated by the ministry and your band or Aboriginal community is represented by a delegated agency, you can ask the ministry to inform the delegated agency of the investigation.
- Whether you're being investigated by the ministry or a delegated agency, you can ask for a representative from your band or friendship centre who will support you during the investigation. This representative can help your child stay connected to his or her Aboriginal family and community.
Ask for a mediator
A mediator can help you work with the ministry. A mediator is a professional who's specially trained to:
- not take sides,
- help people reach an agreement, and
- help people work out conflicts.
You can ask for a mediator as soon as the social worker has contacted you. You can also ask at any time during the child protection process.
Mediation is free for families who are involved with the ministry. Mediators can travel to remote communities.
Court orders and hearings
Report to Court
When you go to court, your social worker must give you a copy of the Report to Court. This document should say:
- why the ministry removed your child from your home or asked for a supervision order,
- what the ministry tried doing before that, and
- what the ministry wants to do next.
An access order says when you can visit your child. If the ministry takes your child from your home, you can apply for access. Apply for access as soon as you can.
If you and the ministry agree about how your child should be cared for, the judge may make a consent order. This means that you won't have to have a full hearing. If you reach a consent order, the judge may not have to make a finding that your child was in need of protection at the protection hearing.
Supervision order without removal
The ministry wants you to follow a certain plan to protect your child. If you agree to do what's asked in the order, your child can stay with you. The terms of the plan are called the supervision terms (see below).
The ministry will ask for you to meet certain terms and conditions so that your child stays safe. If you agree with these terms, your child may be able to stay in your care under a supervision order (above). You can try to negotiate the terms of the supervision order, either with or without the help of a lawyer.
Make sure you ask the social worker what will happen if you don't agree to all of some or all of the supervision terms.
The first time you go to court. The judge will ask you if you agree with what the ministry wants to do:
- If you agree with what the ministry asks for, the judge can make an order right away.
- If you want to apply for legal aid or want more time, the judge may reschedule the hearing.
- If you don't agree with what the ministry asks for, the judge can schedule a full hearing to learn more about your case.
If the ministry:
- takes your child from your home, the presentation hearing must start within seven days.
- applies for a supervision order without removal, the presentation hearing must start within 10 days.
In either case, the ministry will notify you of the hearing date.
Interim supervision order (your child stays with you)
Your child will live with you with the ministry's supervision. The order will include the supervision terms you must follow. The judge can make this order at the presentation hearing.
Interim supervision order (your child stays with someone else
Your child will live with someone else (a family member or friend) with the ministry's supervision. The order will say how your child will be cared for.
The judge can make an interim order at the presentation hearing.
Interim custody order
Your child will stay in foster care for a certain amount of time. The order will say when and how you can visit your child. The judge can make this order at the presentation hearing.
At a presentation hearing, the judge decides who will care for your child for a longer time period. The protection hearing usually follows the presentation hearing. The protection hearing must start no more than 45 days after the presentation hearing ends.
If you and the ministry agree about how your child should be cared for, the judge may make a consent order. This means you won't have to have a full hearing.
Temporary supervision order (your child stays with you)
Your child will live with you, but the ministry will supervise you. The order will include supervision terms that you must follow.
The judge can make this order at the protection hearing (above). The order will last for a specific length of time.
Temporary supervision order (your child stays with someone else)
Your child will live with someone else (a family member or friend) with the ministry's supervision. The order will say how your child will be cared for. You can apply for an access order.
The judge can make this order at the protection hearing. The order will last for a specific length of time.
Temporary custody order (your child is placed in foster care)
Your child must stay in foster care for a specific length of time. The judge can make this order at the protection hearing. You can apply for an access order.
Continuing custody order
The ministry becomes the permanent guardian of your child. You lose all your guardianship rights. This means you lose the right to make decisions about your child.
The judge will usually only make a continuing custody order if there's a serious problem that can't be fixed within a certain amount of time.
Sometimes you can get an access order even if your child goes into the ministry's continuing custody.
Native Courtworker and Counselling Association of BC — Culturally appropriate services to Aboriginal people involved in the criminal justice system
Access Pro Bono Law Clinics — Free legal help
Legal Aid BC — Legal information, advice, and representation services for people living with low incomes
Attorney General — Child Protection Mediation Program
BC211 — Free confidential referrals to help and information — Call 211
PovNet — Information about poverty issues and links to organizations that can help
BC Association of Friendship Centres — Find a friendship centre in your area
Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation — See their Guide to Indigenous Organizations and Services in British Columbia for organizations that can help
Aboriginal community legal workers — Give legal informationand limited advice services
Legal information outreach workers — Give legal information and provide referrals
Carole James, MLA, Community Office — Free legal clinic, including family matters — Call 250-412-7794
Family duty counsel — Free legal advice on family matters — Kwadacha and Tsay Key Dene — Call 1-877-601-6066 (no charge)
Family duty counsel — Free legal advice on child protection matters — Williams Lake, call 778-395-6200
First Nations and Métis Outreach Program (The Law Centre) — Free legal help, including family matters — Victoria
Bella Coola Legal Advocacy Program — Legal advocacy on a issues, including child protection — Bella Coola
UBC Indigenous Community Legal Clinic — Free legal help on various legal matters — 604-684-7334 (Greater Vancouver) or 1-888-684-7334 (call no charge)
Upper Skeena Counselling & Legal Assistance Society — Help with family matters —Hazelton
Victoria Native Friendship Centre — Free legal clinic, including family matters — Call 250-412-7794