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Protecting Children

In Ontario, it is the legal responsibility of Family and Children’s Services of Guelph and Wellington County and Children’s Aid Societies to protect children and youth from abuse and neglect, however it is the legal duty of all members of our community to report suspected cases of abuse and neglect to us. If you know or suspect a child is in need of help or protection, please call us immediately: your prompt action could make the difference in the life of the child.

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What is abuse?

“Child abuse” includes physical, emotional and sexual abuse and neglect. It also addresses a pattern of abuse and risks of harm. Some definitions include:

Physical abuse is any deliberate physical force or action, by a parent or caregiver, which results, or could result, in injury to a child. This can include: bruising, cuts, slapping, beating, shaking, burning, biting, throwing a child or using objects to strike a child. Physical harm can also include a pattern of neglect in supervising, protecting, caring or providing for a child.

Signs of Physical Abuse

Signs of physical abuse include:

  • presence of various injuries
  • injuries inconsistent with child’s age
  • presence of several injuries that are in various stages of healing
  • child cannot recall how injuries occured
  • offers inconsistent explanation
  • wary of adults
  • flinch when touched unexpectedly
  • extremely aggressive
  • extremely withdrawn
  • indiscriminately seeks affection

Neglect occurs when a caregiver fails to provide basic needs such as adequate food, sleep, safety, education, clothing or medical treatment. It also includes leaving a child alone or failing to provide adequate supervision. If the caregiver is unable to provide the child with basic needs due to financial inability, it is not considered neglect, unless relief has been offered and refused. Neglect usually results from the lack of knowledge about appropriate care for children or an inability to plan appropriately for the child’s needs.

Signs of Neglect

Signs of neglect include:

  • poor hygiene
  • unattended physical problems or medical needs
  • consistent lack of supervision
  • frequent absence from school
  • engaged in delinquent acts
  • alcohol/drug abuse
  • frequently arriving at school without a lunch
  • inappropriate clothing for the weather
  • consistently dirty clothes

Emotional abuse is a pattern of behaviour that attacks a child’s emotional development and sense of self-worth. It includes excessive, aggressive or unreasonable demands that place expectations on a child beyond his or her capacity. Emotional abuse includes constantly criticizing, teasing, belittling, insulting, rejecting, ignoring or isolating a child. It may also include exposure to domestic violence.

Signs of Emotional Abuse

Signs of emotional abuse include:

  • severe depression
  • serious anxiety
  • extreme withdrawal
  • extreme aggression
  • extreme attention seeking
  • extreme inhibition
  • bed wetting that is non-medical in nature
  • frequent psychosomatic complaints (headaches, nausea, abdominal pains)
  • failure to thrive
  • self destructive or aggressive behaviour

Sexual abuse occurs when a child is used for the sexual gratification of an adult or an older child. The child may co-operate because he or she wants to appease the adult or out of fear. It includes sexual intercourse, exposing a child’s private areas, indecent phone calls, fondling for sexual purposes, allowing/forcing a child to look at or perform in pornography or engage in prostitution.

Signs of Sexual Abuse

Signs of sexual abuse include:

  • age-inappropriate play with toys, self or others
  • unusual or excessive itching in the genital or anal area
  • injuries to the genital or anal area
  • displaying explicit sexual acts
  • torn, stained or bloody underwear
  • age-inappropriate sexually explicit drawing or descriptions
  • bizarre, sophisticated or unusual sexual knowledge
  • prostitution
  • seductive behaviour

If you recognize any of these signs and suspect a child is in need of help
call us immediately:

Community Resources

As a member of the Guelph and Wellington County community, we are part of a larger network of community resources that are here to support children and their families. A list of these resources can be found here.

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