My family is involved with a social worker or MCFD in court. What's happening during COVID-19?
COVID-19 has affected court processes for those involved with a social worker from the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) or Aboriginal agency about a child's plan of care.
Whether you’re attending a court date, participating in a case conference, or waiting for a hearing, the COVID-19 crisis may affect your next steps.
If you’re scheduled for court
All court proceedings, except trials, are currently being held virtually, by telephone or by video conference through the online platform MS Teams. Even though you may be attending court virtually, you're still expected to follow courtroom etiquette. This means that during your court proceeding, you're expected to dress appropriately (if you are attending by video), and you're not allowed to smoke or vape, or to eat or to drink any liquids other than water.
If you're calling into court through telephone conference or MS Teams, make sure to mute yourself while waiting for your court matter to be dealt with.
The Provincial Court website has a guide to video and telephone conferences. The court links for calling in to attend court are the same as for regular list days. If you're unsure of the call-in information, you can contact the court registry in advance of your court date to ask for it. See the Provincial Court website to find contact information for each court registry.
Child protection trials
At this time, all child protection trials are taking place in person at the designated courthouse (unless you're told differently by the court). Arrive early at the courthouse on your trial day. All people entering the courthouse will be screened for Covid-19 symptoms, so there may be a line up. Once you're in the courthouse, a sheriff will tell you where to wait for your trial. Limited numbers of people are allowed in court rooms, so follow the sheriff's directions and wait in the approved areas.
If your child has been removed and you have a date for a court hearing
If your child has been removed, your matter will be scheduled to appear in court within 7 days of the removal. This first court appearance, called a presentation hearing, will go ahead at the scheduled time and day (or on the court list day) by phone or by MS Teams. Call-in information for each list day is the same for each courthouse. If you have the call-in information and your matter is going to proceed on another day, the call-in information will be the same (unless court staff tell you otherwise).
If you aren’t sure what type of court appearance you have
Contact your social worker or your lawyer to check for any upcoming court dates. It’s important to not miss your court hearing. If you don’t have access to a telephone, talk to your social worker or lawyer to find a solution. In some courthouses, court rooms are open to people to attend in person; although it's recommended that you call in or attend by MS Teams.
If you need help with your case
Whatever is happening with your court matter, you can get help. If there's a Parents Legal Centre (PLC) in your community, call them to get help by phone. PLCs provide free lawyers and advocates to help parents deal with a social worker's concerns about their children's safety. You can call the Legal Aid BC Call Centre to apply for legal aid (1-866-577-2525). You can also see the Legal Aid BC website to find legal aid services in your community.
I'm a First Nation youth living on reserve and will age out of care during COVID-19. What help can I get?
First Nation youth won't age out of care during the COVID-19 crisis. The federal government announced it will cover the costs for First Nations child and family services agencies to continue to support youth who are in the on-reserve system. See the BC Ministry of Children and Family Development website and the Aged Out website for more information.
I'd like to have a Gladue report for my court appearance. Can I get one during COVID-19?
My child is in foster care. How does COVID-19 affect our visits?
The Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) is still providing in-person visits during the pandemic. The length and frequency of your visits will depend on several factors, including whether your visits need to be professionally supervised, supervised by a family member, or can occur in the community or your family home.
In many communities, there are fewer spots available for professionally supervised visits because of increased cleaning protocols and decreased capacity due to safety protocols. MCFD continues to follow public health polices and restrictions to decrease everyone’s potential exposure to COVID-19.
Public health restrictions are still changing and may vary between communities. Your social worker will assess how visits will continue to occur safely. It's important that you talk to your social worker or lawyer to determine how you'll see your children and to advocate for more access.
For more information, see the ministry's bulletin.
Page last updated: Wednesday, April 21, 2021 18:21 pm hrs