The Need

What is Child Abuse?

When people think about child abuse, they usually think of physical and sexual abuse. But more than 50 per cent of children and youth who come into provincial government care in Alberta do so because of neglect.

There are four main types of abuse:

Emotional abuse is verbal attacks on a child's sense of self, repeated humiliation or rejection. Exposure to violence, drugs, alcohol abuse or severe conflict in the home, forced isolation, restraint or causing a child to be afraid much of the time may also cause emotional harm. Emotional abuse rarely happens only once and it is usually part of a pattern of how the child is being treated.

Neglect is any lack of care that causes serious harm to a child's development or endangers the child in any way. Physical neglect is the failure to meet the child's day-to-day basic needs. This includes failing to provide adequate nutrition, clothing, shelter, health care and protection from harm. Emotional neglect is the failure to meet the child's ongoing emotional needs for affection and a sense of belonging.

Physical abuse is the intentional use of force on any part of a child's body that results in injuries. It may be a single incident or a series or pattern of incidents.

Sexual abuse is the improper exposure of a child to sexual contact, activity or behaviour. It includes any sexual touching, intercourse, exploitation or exposure and can be perpetrated by anyone, including a parent or guardian, caregiver, extended family, friend, neighbour or stranger.

What contributes to child abuse?

Stress, inadequate parenting skills, lack of positive parent-child involvement, criminal or mental health issues, many children to care for and poverty are all factors that can lead to child abuse by parents, guardians, extended family, friends, neighbours, caregivers and strangers. Research also identifies family violence, lack of social supports, history of child abuse, and alcohol and drug abuse as the most frequent contributing factors in substantiated cases of child abuse. (MacLaurin, et al., 2005)

The Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act (Enhancement Act) is the legal authority for providing child intervention services in Alberta. It requires the provision of services which can be expected to correct or relieve the problem that caused a child to be in need of intervention.

The principles of the Enhancement Act guide caseworkers in their work with families. The Enhancement Act stresses the importance of family. It provides for support services to families to ensure that a child will only be removed from home if other, less intrusive measures are not sufficient to protect the child.

If you suspect a child is being abused, in Calgary call the Calgary and Area Child and Family Service Authority Social Services Response Team at 403-297-2995 or outside of the Calgary region, call the Child Abuse Hotline toll-free at 1-800-387-5437 (KIDS) to speak with a caseworker.

Under the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act any person who has “reasonable and probable grounds” to believe that a child is being harmed or in danger of being harmed by their parent or guardian has an obligation to report it to us. This means that if you believe that a child has been abandoned, is being neglected, physically injured, emotionally injured or sexually abused, you need to call us so we can assess the situation.