WATCH ABOVE: Tammy Larabie reported a family to CAS as she thought she was legally obliged to. Mark Carcasole reports.
TORONTO – The Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS) is worried a recent court decision will chill the desire of people to report suspected cases of child abuse.
Mary Ballantyne, the executive director of the OACAS, says the recent case which penalized a home daycare worker $10,000 for reporting a suspected case of neglect, could stop others from reporting legitimate cases.
“We really do look to the public, we look to the people working with children to ensure that they have their eyes on them and that they are reporting them if they have concerns,” she said. “Our concern is that people don’t continue to take that responsibility.”
Tammy Larabie had been running an unlicensed daycare out of her Pickering home but was in Toronto when caring for the child. She wouldn’t go into detail when speaking with Global News but said she was concerned the child was malnourished.
She reported her concerns to the Children’s Aid Society which found them reasonable enough to investigate. They didn’t find anything during their investigation and cleared the family.
Then the family sued.
“It’s not my job to be 100 per cent sure that a child is abused or in neglect, or that it has taken place. That is the job of the Children’s Aid Society,” Larabie said.
“I would also like to point out that the judge did rule that my report was not malicious in anyway,” she added later.
The judge found there were no reasonable grounds for concern and her call to CAS was an overreaction. He wrote in his ruling that there was “no basis whatsoever to call the CAS.”
But John Schuman, the partner responsible for family law at Devry, Smith, Frank LLP in Toronto said childcare professionals have a legal duty to report suspected cases of child abuse, or neglect. Professionals who don’t report, he said, can face fines of up to $1,000 – though that fine could be increased to $5,000 soon.
“If you’re acting under a legal duty, you can’t be sued for fulfilling your legal duty, and child professionals have a legal duty to report when they have a reasonable grounds to believe that a child is at serious risk of harm,” he said.
He went on to say that the CAS generally doesn’t investigate unreasonable complaints.
But that’s exactly the problem Judge Lewis Richardson found with Larabie’s complaint. He admitted that Larabie wasn’t motivated by maliciousness but her complaints were unreasonable.
“I have found nothing to suggest that [the child] was in any danger, nor was it ever suggested by the plaintiff,” he wrote. “[The child], in my view, had normal every day ailments that most, if not all infants endure.”
The judge went on to declare he saw nothing to suggest the child was in any physical danger. He goes on to say that Larabie “panicked and over-reacted” when reporting the case to CAS.
“It is not reasonable to conclude on the evidence before me that the child was in any danger or that there was any parental neglect.”
– With files from Mark Carcasole