Q & A's


What is a CAS?

The Children's Aid Society (CAS), also known as Family and Children's Services (F&CS), is a non-profit agency working in local communities to provide help and support to children and their families. Established under the authority of The Child and Family Services Act, the CAS is a non-profit corporation formed by concerned people in each community. The CAS is operated by a board of directors elected from the local community and by the membership at large. Board members have a specific interest in the welfare of children and offer individual skills to assist in running the agency. The board of directors reflects the opinions of the community it serves. Programs and services are developed in response to the needs of children and families in the local community.

Who calls CAS?

  • Professionals and citizens call CAS when they suspect abuse or neglect.
  • Families call CAS when they have difficulties managing their children.
  • Children call CAS when they are encountering problems at home.

Legislation requires that 
A person who has reasonable grounds to suspect that a child is or may be in need of protection must make the report directly to a Children's Aid Society and that people who work with children who suspect that a child is a victim of child abuse or neglect must report these suspicions to the CAS; failure to do so could subject the person to a fine.

For more information

When should you call CAS?

As soon as you suspect abuse or neglect anytime - 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week. A phone call to CAS will bring immediate help to a child at risk of abuse. It is not your responsibility to determine whether abuse or neglect has occurred. Each CAS is responsible for the investigation and the assessment of abuse and neglect of children and also the ultimate management of a case when a child is taken into care. Please contact your local CAS immediately if you have concerns about a child.

Sarnia- Lambton CAS can be reached at 519-336-0623. 
Additional information on reporting abuse can be found on the Reporting A Concern page or Report A Concern Form page of this website.

What is the age of the children whom "Duty to Report" applies?

The duty to report applies to any child who is, or appears to be, under the age of 16 years. It also applies to children subject to a child protection order who are 16 and 17 years old.

People can still call their local CAS to report abuse of a child or young person, when that young person is over 16, the CAS can direct the caller/referral source to the appropriate resources/community services.

What happens when you call CAS?

  • When you call your local CAS, you will speak to an intake worker who is specially trained to listen to your concerns and ask questions before deciding how urgent the situation is and what type of intervention is needed. If a child is in imminent danger, a social worker will respond immediately.
  • If the protection worker determines that the child is not in immediate danger or risk of harm, he/she will be able to assist the family by taking a customized approach designed to connect them with community resources.
  • CAS workers are professionals who evaluate your information using comprehensive guidelines to determine the risk in each situation. Child protection workers, using clear standards and guidelines, Child Protection Standards and Tools in Ontario and the, Ontario Child Welfare Eligibility Spectrum, determine the kind of support and service needed to keep children safe and families healthy in situations involving child maltreatment.
  • Every report received by the CAS is reviewed by a child protection worker to determine the appropriate response. Most calls that require further investigation fall into two categories -- those that must be responded to within 12 hours, and those that must be followed up within 7 days. Individual circumstances and level of risk for the children involved determine the response times.
  • In most cases, the child and family will be offered supportive counselling to help keep the child safe and secure at home.
  • Children's Aid Societies provide child welfare services and parenting supports to families to help them cope with stress, poverty, addiction or mental health problems.
  • Children's Aid Societies protect children from abuse including neglect, promote their well-being within their families and communities, and provide a safe, nurturing place for children and youth to grow up.

What happens when parents refuse to provide medical care for their children?

When a child is at risk due to health reasons, medical professionals seek court intervention to protect the child and Children’s Aid Societies are called upon to act. Under the Child and Family Services Act, a child is in need of protection where the child has suffered or is at risk to suffer harm by a person or a person’s failure to care for, supervisor or protect the child. Children’s Aid Societies supervise medical treatment and care for the child when parents refuse or are unavailable to consent to treatment. According to the CFSA, "A child is in need of protection where…the child requires medical treatment to cure, prevent or alleviate physical harm or suffering and the child’s parent or the person having charge of the child does not provide, or refuses or is unavailable or unable to consent to, the treatment; (Section 37, 2, (e))"

What if parents are unable to provide care for their children?

  • Children may be admitted to CAS care with the consent of the parents or by court order.
  • The CAS might seek out relatives or other significant persons to provide short-term care.
  • The CAS will continue to provide help to the family, encourage visits and ultimately reunite the child and family unless the child is made a Crown ward. Every effort is made to reunite child and family and regular visits are encouraged. Parents may be requested to contribute financially to their child's support.

Who looks after the child in CAS care?

Most children receive care in foster homes or group homes in or near their home community. Some children may require placements geared to their special needs. Foster families are able to provide care, understanding and relief to many children during a family's time of crisis. Placements are usually temporary with the plan to return the child to the natural family following regular counselling and visits. As a last resort, the court may make a child a crown ward if the family situation cannot be restored.   At that time, a permanent plan for the child will be developed.

For more information

Do Children's Aid Societies serve diverse communities?

Ontario’s Children's Aid Societies serve communities across Ontario. CASs meet the diverse needs of their communities. Agencies provide culturally appropriate mandatory services to meet the needs of their clients. There are currently many CASs in Ontario. CASs have historically grown from community roots – in many cases voluntary or religious.  All mandated child welfare agencies work under the same legislation, regulations and standards.

How do I go about becoming a foster parent?

Foster families give of their time and themselves by nurturing and fostering vulnerable children and youth. When children cannot remain at home because of serious concerns about their safety and protection, they come into the care of a child welfare agency that makes every effort to give a child a family and a home. For information about foster care, you can speak to someone in the foster care department at your local CAS. Call your local Children’s Aid Society to find out about the process, evaluation and training required to become a foster parent.

For information on foster parenting and adoption from Sarnia-Lambton CAS, please go here.

Is there training or evaluation for foster parents?

Yes, your local Children's Aid Society provides foster parents with: ongoing support and advice; training, education, home assessments and subsidies to provide care for foster children. Agencies provide training through the Parent Resources for Information, Development and Education (PRIDE) program and the standard homestudy assessment tool, Structured Assessment Family Evaluation (SAFE).

What is adoption?

Adoption provides the child with a family for a lifetime, often called a "forever family."  Once a child has become a ward of the state, otherwise known as a Crown ward, they may be eligible for adoption. A child who is adopted has the same status and rights as if he/she were born into the family.

What is public adoption?

  • The CAS has the responsibility to find permanent families for all children in its care who are available for adoption and who could benefit from a family.
  • Permanent adoptive homes are always needed for older and special needs children.
  • Applicants must participate in a home study (SAFE), provided at no cost.
  • The CAS will provide support to the adoptive family once the child is placed in the home and until the adoption is finalized.
  • The CAS may also provide adoptive parents and children with ongoing support, training and education; financial supports and subsidies.
  • If you require assistance after the adoption is finalized, the CAS is prepared to help you.
  • If you have given a child up for adoption or are adopted yourself and would like to begin to learn about your birth family, information about adoption records and disclosure can be found on the Ministry of Community and Social Services website.

For more information on adoption in Ontario, check out these links

How do I adopt?

In Ontario, many initiatives are in place to facilitate the adoption process including openness agreements between a child’s adoptive family and natural family; a provincial child matching data base to find more families for culturally diverse children and sibling groups; clinical supports; and adoption subsidies. Adoptive parents seeking to adopt a child in the care of Ontario’s Children’s Aid Societies are asked to participate in a home study through the Structured Assessment Family Evaluation (SAFE) tool and training and assessment through the Parent Resources for Information, Development and Education (PRIDE) model. When you contact your local Children’s Aid Society, agency staff can answer your questions and begin the adoption process with you.

I was adopted. How do I find out information on my birth parents?

Please read the Ministry of Community and Social Services website for more information.

Are you pregnant and need help?

  • Young persons can turn to CAS when they discover they are pregnant.
  • Many options are available to the mother.
  • The worker will explore all the alternatives with the mother so that she can make the best decision.
  • Support and counselling can be provided to both parents during the pregnancy and after the birth.
  • If the mother decides to parent the baby, support can be provided.
  • Alternate care can be provided during the time of uncertainty.
  • If adoption is chosen, the society will find the best suitable home for the child.

If you have any questions regarding the services provided, please contact your local CAS.

At what age can a child be left home alone?

The Child and Family Services Act does not identify an age when a child can be left alone, or an age at which a child can supervise or babysit other children.  The Act recognizes that age alone is not a sufficient safeguard for the supervision of children.

The Act says that a person who has charge of a child less than 16 years of age cannot leave the child without making provision for his/her care or supervision that is reasonable under the circumstances. Anyone who contravenes this provision is guilty of a provincial offence and if convicted is liable to a fine of up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment of up to a year.

In addition, the Criminal Code of Canada includes the offence of abandoning a child. Everyone who unlawfully abandons or exposes a child who is under the age of 10 years, so that its life is or is likely to be endangered, or its health is or is likely to be permanently injured is guilty of an offence that carries a penalty of imprisonment of not more than two years.

If you're unsure as to whether it's okay to leave your child home alone, please consult with your local Children's Aid Society -- you don't have to give your name, or any identifying information.

How do I become a volunteer?

Ontario’s Children's Aid Society volunteers are part of a team that includes agency staff and foster parents. Volunteers' valuable contributions enable agencies to provide enriched services to children, youth and their families. Volunteers benefit from training, supervision and recognition for their contributions. Volunteers make a difference to the lives of Ontario’s children. Contact your local CAS to arrange to attend an orientation session where you will learn about volunteer opportunities, training and the application process which can include interviews, criminal records checks and reference checks. All volunteers must be 18 years of age or older. For more info on volunteering, please visit the Volunteer Canada website.

For Sarnia-Lambton CAS volunteer information, please go here.

I have a complaint about a CAS, who should I contact?

If you have comments or complaints about services received, please view the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services website and read the brochure:
Do you have a complaint about services you have sought or received from an Ontario Children’s Aid Society?

If you want a review of a decision by the CAS in your case, visit the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services website and read the Child and Family Services Review Board Brochure, Do you want a review of a decision you have received from an Ontario Children's Aid Society or licensee?

The OACAS is a membership organization that works on behalf of CASs and children in the province. The CASs in the province do not report to the OACAS nor does OACAS have any authority over how they deliver service. They are independent organizations managed by community boards and are funded by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services.

If you are unhappy with the service provided to you or a member of your family, please visit the Ontario Government, Ministry of Children and Youth Services website and read the Ministry brochure which outlines the process or if you want a review of a decision you received from a Children's Aid Society, visit the Child and Family Services Review Board website.