The COVID-19 crisis is increasing risk for those living in homes where there is family violence. Social isolation, disrupted routines, possible financial and/or food insecurity, suspension of in-person schooling and ongoing uncertainty are exacerbating dangerous conditions for some children and youth who may not already be considered at risk.
Children and youth who experience physical, sexual, family violence and/or neglect no longer have a safe refuge at school or access to a trusted adult to talk to in person and watch out for them. An increase in mental health concerns for parents can impact children and youth, putting them at higher risk for family violence and child abuse.
Frontline agencies such as Kids Help Phone have seen a significant increase in children and youth accessing their services. There has been a 28% increase in conversations about physical abuse, 42% increase about anxiety or stress and a 48% increase about isolation (Kids Help Phone, 2020).
If you think a child or youth under 19 years of age is being abused or neglected, you have the legal duty to report your concern to a child welfare worker or children’s aid agency (phone numbers at the bottom of this page). Advise your school administrator after you have made the call.
You are the adults in schools with whom young people have relationships and in whom they trust. During this period, with online or over-the-phone communication and/or instruction taking place, there are opportunities to check in. It is important to be aware that some students, including but not limited to those with existing vulnerabilities, may now be facing even greater challenges.
Messaging to Children and Youth
Keep in Mind
Proceed with caution. Many young people (especially those in elementary school) will have a parent or guardian present for any online contact with an educator. Email or chat contact may provide additional options to a phone or online communication platform.
If children or youth can speak safely, there are resources listed below as well as examples of questions you can ask. If you think the level of risk is high, get your school counsellor and/or administrator involved to discuss a personal safety plan if possible.
If you know family violence or abuse is occurring, call a child welfare worker or children’s aid agency (phone numbers below). If danger is imminent, call 9-1-1.
Possible check-in questions
• What have you been doing this past week?
• What has been enjoyable? What has been difficult?
• Is there anything you or your family need(s)?
• Do you have any concerns you would like to share?
Possible school-based activities that could enable expression of emotions
• Draw a picture of how you are feeling during the current situation.
• Create a storyboard for a typical day of the past week.
• Can you describe or draw what makes you feel calm?
• Write a story about how you are spending your time.
• What is one positive thing you will remember about this time? What is one negative thing?
• Can you compare what you are experiencing with another time in history?
• What gives you hope at this time?
Possible questions for parents
• How are you managing right now?
• Are you able to find some relief during your day?
• Do you need help meeting particular challenges?
• Is there anything we can do to help you meet your child’s needs?
For a reference list with more examples, phone numbers to report a situation, and resources see below.
Reporting Suspected Child Abuse
If danger is imminent, call 9-1-1 or your local police station.
1-800-663-9122 | BC Ministry of Children & Family Development, Child Protection
1-867-667-3002 | Yukon Health & Social Services, Family & Children’s Services
1-800-387-KIDS (1-800-387-5437) | Government of Alberta, Ministry of Children’s Services
Contact your local community social worker.
In Yellowknife, call 867-873-7276 or 867-445-1092 after hours.
Contact your local community social services office.
In Iqaluit, call 867-975-7250.
Call your nearest Ministry of Social Services Office, First Nations Child and Family Services Agency or local police/RCMP.
For all after hours incidents or concerns, immediately contact your nearest After Hours Crisis Centre:
- Prince Albert: 306-764-1011
- Saskatoon: 306-933-6200
- Regina: 306-569-2724
- Local Police/RCMP in other communities
- Local First Nations Child and Family Service Agency
Report your concern to your local child and family services (CFS) agency. For a list of CFS designated intake agencies, go to www.gov.mb.ca/intakeagencies. If you do not know the number of your local CFS agency, or after working hours, call the province-wide emergency services toll free line: 1-866-345-9241.
Call your local Children’s Aid Society. There is someone available to receive your call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Call 1-888-99-ABUSE (1-888-992-2873) (in province calls only).
Or call After Hours Emergency Services 1-800-442-9799.
Or call the CHIMO Helpline 1-800-667-5005 (available 24/7 to New Brunswickers with limited French service).
Contact the child welfare agency in the area where the child lives. To find the child welfare agency in your area, please contact the agency or district office of the Department of Community Services nearest you for more information. After regular business hours call 1-866-922-2434 if you believe a child is in immediate danger.
Prince Edward Island
Call 1-877-341-3101 during business hours.
Call 1-800-341-6868 after hours.
Newfoundland and Labrador
To report a concern, call your local CSSD office or contact your local police.
Kids Help Phone (24 hrs/7 days)
1-800-668-6868 or text 686868 (or PARLER en français) or kidshelpphone.ca
National support service with professional counselling, infomation and referrals.
Adults needing support re child welfare, text SUPPORT to 741741.
LGBTQ youth, text LGBTQ to 686868.
First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line (24 hrs/7 days)
1-855-242-3310 | Culturally competent counselling, in English, French and upon request in Cree, Ojibway, and Inuktitut
Trans Life Line
1-877-330-6366 | Peer support by trans people for trans and questioning callers
British Columbia Helpline for Children (24 hrs/7 days)
310-1234 (no area code required) for children or youth
British Columbia Crisis Centre (24 hrs/7 days)
Distress phone line 604-872-3311 or 1-866-661-3311
Online chat: www.YouthInBC.com
Prevention, Education, Advocacy, Counselling and Empowerment (PEACE)
Free, confidential program for children and youth in British Columbia who have experienced family violence. Funded by the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, there are 86 PEACE programs across British Columbia.