If the Ministry of Children and Family Development (or a delegated agency) gets information that your child may be at risk, BC law says that they must look into it. This means that a social worker will contact you or visit your home to ask questions about your family. This is part of the child protection process.
A mediator can help you work with the ministry. You can ask for a mediator as soon as the ministry has contacted you.
To get help with mediation, see Who can help.
If the ministry contacts you about a child protection concern, you have the right to get legal advice. If the social worker has serious concerns, they may take your child from your home. Call Legal Aid immediately to find out if you qualify for a free lawyer.
604-408-2172 (Greater Vancouver)
1-866-577-2525 (no charge outside Greater Vancouver)
You and your family have the right to be involved in decisions about your child.
How you respond to the social worker is important. If you stay calm and listen, they're more likely to trust you. If the social worker thinks there's a serious problem, they may take your child from your home. But if you're willing to work with the ministry and make changes to keep your child safe, the social worker may leave your child with you.
A mediator can help you work with the ministry.
You can ask for a mediator as soon as the social worker has contacted you. You can also ask at any stage of the child protection process.
Mediation is free for families who are involved with the ministry. Mediators can travel to remote communities.
A mediator is a professional who's specially trained to:
Mediators don't work for the Ministry of Children and Family Development. Instead, the Attorney General chooses and hires them. This is so that mediators don't take sides.
Mediators help everyone involved in your child's case to work together to:
Mediation gives you a chance to have your voice heard and to share your side of the story.
Mediation can help everyone agree on what's best for your child. It may help you resolve some or all of the issues involved in your child's case. This means you may not have to go to court.
Mediation can help:
Mediation is voluntary (it's your choice).
You can use mediation to work through a number of issues, including:
The following issues can't be mediated:
Your lawyer can be there during mediation to support you and give you legal advice.
Remember: You can ask for mediation at any stage of the child protection process:
If you can't reach an agreement, you can still go to court after mediation.
You can ask for an Aboriginal mediator. Aboriginal mediators:
Mediators aren't experts in all Aboriginal cultures. But the mediator will work with you to meet your family's unique needs. For example, you can ask the mediator to:
If you're interested in working with a mediator from a particular culture or nation, ask your lawyer or social worker for help.
Mediators are available across BC. How you get a mediator may be different in every community. Ask your lawyer or social worker for more information.
See Mediate BC's website for a roster (list) of mediators in BC.
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 information and limited advice services
Legal information outreach workers — Give legal information and provide referrals
Access Pro Bono Law Clinics — Free legal help
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 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