Child Abuse Prevention, We Can Make a Difference!

October 16, 2018by Lisa Philip

Guest Column

Lyndsy, Lakeshore Dental Care, North Bay

Albert Einstein said, “the world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”

My name is Lyndsy and I am a Dental Office Coordinator in North Bay, Ontario. In July of 2016, our office experienced something that I am sure most dental offices have. A patient’s oral hygiene was being obviously neglected by their caregiver. This patient needed somebody to advocate for them and we didn’t know what to do. I saw a need for information… a need for change, which has now become so much more.

The provincial Child, Youth and Family Services Act (CYFSA)says that any person who performs professional or official duties for children, including health care professionals such as dentists, must promptly report to a children’s aid society any suspicions that a child is or may be in need of protection. This is called a duty to report.

After searching the RCDSO website, unable to find any information, I called the RCDSO, explained the situation and was transferred to leave a voicemail. It was difficult to get anyone on the line. After several attempts, someone at the RCDSO searched archives and found a single article in Dispatch Magazine on Mandatory Reporting Responsibilities, which was not easily accessible. Finding little support and information I called other North Bay offices to see if they had a policy. The common response was that they weren’t sure what to do, or they didn’t want to breach patient confidentiality, or that they didn’t want children to be taken from their families as a result of reporting. It is common misconceptions such as these that needed to be corrected.

Over the next several months I worked with amazing people at my local Children’s Aid Society, as well as researching websites like the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario and OACAS. They provided information and documents with all of the information needed to create a policy for my dental office.

I emailed the RCDSO all of the information with supporting references and documentation and asked if they could create a section on their website to provide support and information to other offices like mine. They agreed.

As stated on the OCAS website, there are many types of child abuse, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and exposure to domestic violence. Child neglect is also considered an equally serious child protection concern. Research shows that the impact of neglect on child development and well-being can be more damaging than any other kind of abuse. Approximately 90% of the families that receive child protection services from Children’s Aid Societies are struggling with chronic needs such as trauma, poverty, mental health issues, and addictions.

This October marks the 26thanniversary of the OACAS Child Abuse Prevention Month, which raises awareness about the role that everybody in the community plays in keeping kids safe, and the importance of calling Children’s Aid with concerns about the safety or well-being of a child or youth, the age was raised from 16 years to 18 years in January of this year. If you have reasonable grounds to suspect abuse or neglect, contact your local Children’s Aid Society. You do not need to investigate or prove abuse or neglect, as this is the job of the professional, hard-working people at CAS.

Don’t wait until you witness child abuse or neglect to educate yourself and your team, by then it may be too late. Be prepared. Have a policy in place. We can make a difference!

Thank you for your time


For more information on child abuse indicators please see, Detecting child abuse and neglect – are dentists doing enough?A Tsang, D Sweet – Journal-Canadian Dental Association, 1999

Lisa Philip