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Child, Youth & Family Enhancement Act

Disclosure under Section 4 – A Child in Need of Intervention

Section 4 of the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act (“CYFEA”) is an exception to the general privacy rules. If any person has reasonable and probable grounds to believe that a child is in need of intervention then that person has a duty to report the matter forthwith to a director of Child and Youth Services (“CYS”).

It is important to know that the duty to report is a positive duty on the individual. A failure to report is an offence under the Act. If a person is a member of a profession a CYS director must report the failure to report to the person’s professional body. Fortunately, there is no liability for a person who makes a report in good faith.

What constitutes “reasonable and probable grounds” of a child in need depends on the circumstances; however, the belief that a child is in need must have some factual basis.

A child is in need of protection for the purposes of the CYFEA when:

  • the child has suffered physical harm or there is substantial risk that the child will suffer physical harm whether it was inflicted by the guardian or resulted from the guardian’s failure to care or protect the child;
  • the child has been sexually molested or sexually exploited or there is substantial risk that the child will be sexually molested or exploited either by a guardian or as a result of that guardian’s failure to protect the child;
  • the child requires essential medical, surgical or other remedial treatment that is necessary for the health or well being of the child and the guardian does not provide or refuses or is unavailable to consent to the treatment;
  • the child has suffered emotional harm demonstrated by severe anxiety, depression, withdrawal or self-destructive behavior, or there is substantial risk that the child will suffer such emotional harm and the person having charge of the child does not provide or refuses or is unavailable to consent to the treatment to alleviate the harm; or the child suffers from a mental emotional or developmental condition that if not remedied could seriously impair the child’s development and the person having charge of the child does not provide, refuses or is unavailable to consent to the treatment.

If you are aware of a child who meets one of the above criteria, you must report this incident to CYFEA.

Recent amendments to the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act

In October 2009, section 126 (4) of the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act was amended to clarify the circumstances in which a custodian and/or public body, such as Alberta Health Services, may release health/personal information to Children and Youth Services (CYS).
The amended section 126 (4) now states:

  • (4) A director may collect and use personal information, including health information as defined in the Health Information Act, for the purposes of conducting an assessment or an investigation or providing services under this Act.
  • (4.1) A custodian as defined in the Health Information Act may disclose health information as defined in the Health Information Act to a director for the purposes set out in subsection (4).
  • (4.2) A public body as defined in the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act may disclose personal information to a director for the purposes set out in subsection (4).

With this amendment, custodians/public bodies may release health/personal information to CYS for the purposes of conducting assessments, investigations or providing services under the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act. Although Alberta Health Services has the option (“may disclose”), AHS will usually disclose information when such circumstances exist. It is important to note that AHS is not required to disclose information under these amendments.

General privacy principles still require the disclosure of the least amount of information possible while still enabling CYS to carry out its intended purpose.

While the majority of requests for health or personal information occur after an individual has made a report to CYS that a child is in need of intervention services, the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act provides CYS with a range of options to assist children and families in other situations that require action by CYS. These options include court orders and agreements.

Court orders: There are four main types of court orders that CYS may apply for in Provincial Court: supervision orders, temporary guardianship orders, permanent guardianship orders and apprehension orders. Other courts orders that CYS may apply for are restraining orders and medical treatment orders.

To obtain these orders, CYS must be of the opinion that a child is in need of intervention and that the survival, security or development of the child cannot be adequately protected without such an order.

CYS may request health or personal information to reach an opinion on whether intervention is necessary and to act as evidence for such a decision.

Agreements: CYS may enter into an agreement to provide services to a child with the consent of a child’s guardian. Such agreements include family enhancement agreements and custody agreements.
While any health/personal information requested in such circumstances would usually be with the consent of the guardian, the agreements are still “services” and section 126 may apply.