Having spent 30 years working in child welfare in Ontario, it seemed like a natural decision to use my skills to start a Duty to Report Campaign during Child Abuse Prevention Month. Although I suspect that most Ontarians don’t know that October is dedicated to child abuse education, let alone know what day Dress Purple Day is (October 27, 2021) and what it stands for. Sadly, the government has not done a good job helping people learn how to recognize the signs of abuse and neglect – including how to make a report to the local child welfare authority. Worse, most professionals don’t understand what their Duty to Report is. For instance, in a 2021 Canadian study of Ontario social work students and practitioners, when participants were presented with reportable child abuse and neglect vignettes, 68% did not make a Duty to Report to the local Children’s Aid Society and 47% did not receive prior Duty to Report training in the first place.
In 2017, the Duty to Report was a central theme during Katelynn Sampson’s inquest. And while you may not know who she was, I will never forget this little girl and how her precious life was snuffed out in a horrifying manner.
Katelynn Sampson was a seven-year-old child who was involved in the child welfare system and who was chronically abused until the point of her death on August 3, 2008. She sustained multiple injuries such as bruises, rib fractures, and blows to her body that ruptured her liver. At the time of her death, Katelynn had about 70 injuries to her body. During her dying weeks, it would have been difficult for her to walk, brush her teeth, go to the bathroom, or sleep. There were so many missed opportunities and failures of the education, child welfare, and court systems to protect her from harm.
The jurors from Katelynn’s inquest understood the importance of having Duty to Report training, and they made several key recommendations for the Ontario government to address Duty to Report training gaps in the system. Specifically, the jury’s Duty to Report recommendations that I am petitioning the Ontario government to legislate are:
- Recommendation #6
The Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services fund and carry-out a comprehensive, ongoing, public awareness campaign on the “Duty to Report”.
- Recommendation #8
The Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services establish a mandatory annual training program for those professionals with a higher responsibility surrounding the duty to report under s. 125 of the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017.
By and large, people are nervous to make a report to their local Children’s Aid Society for fear that they may be wrong about their suspicions. For example, in a 2021 Canadian study of 450 staff in Alberta’s education system, the primary reason not to make a report was fear of making an “incorrect report”. Hence, the importance of having a proper Duty to Report training program because it is a proven fact that Duty to Report training increases a person’s confidence and capacity to make a report.
By signing the Duty to Report petition to legislate Duty to Report training, you can prove to the Ontario government that the Duty to Report is an important campaign for our government to take seriously. When we stand together, it proves that we care. Child abuse is preventable and learning how to make a report to your local Children’s Aid Society can save a child from being harmed.
Please take a stand and sign the petition now!
With gratitude, Landy Anderson, Mother, Grandmother, Daughter, Aunt, Cousin, Sister, Niece, Wife, Author, Educator, Friend, Child Welfare Advocate & Concerned Citizen.