Policy Directive: CW 005-20 Ceasing the Practice of Birth Alerts in Ontario



This policy directive is issued under s. 42 of the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017 (CYFSA) to provide direction to children’s aid societies (societies) with respect to ceasing the practice of birth alerts in Ontario.

Effective date:

This policy directive will come into effect on July 13, 2020. Societies must cease the practice of birth alerts by October 15, 2020, and in the interim period, prepare to cease the practice by fulfilling the requirements in this directive.

Introduction:

For the purpose of this directive, a “birth alert” is a notification issued by a society to a hospital regarding an expectant parent, where the society believes that, following delivery the child may be in need of protection. Birth alerts are sometimes referred to as “hospital alerts”. The alert prompts the hospital to contact the society when the infant is delivered, whether or not hospital staff have independently developed concerns about the parents’ ability to safely care for the infant. This enables child protection workers to intervene soon after the baby’s birth to determine whether there are protection concerns.

In June 2019, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) called upon provincial and territorial governments to immediately end the practice of “birth alerts” which the MMIWG determined disproportionately impacts Indigenous mothers.

The intent of this policy directive is to provide direction to societies with respect to ceasing the practice of birth alerts in Ontario, as well as direction about initiating society collaboration with local hospitals, pre- and post-natal services, and other relevant healthcare practitioners.

Requirements:

  1. Societies are required to cease the practice of birth alerts by October 15, 2020. In the interim period, societies are required to prepare for ceasing the practice of birth alerts by carrying out the activities outlined in requirement 2.
  2. Societies are required to issue a letter to local hospitals, pre- and post-natal service providers, and other relevant healthcare practitioners (e.g., midwifery services), using a template provided by the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services (ministry), advising them of the direction provided in this policy directive. The letter must be issued by August 15, 2020 and include the following information:
    1. Information about the ministry directive to cease the practice of birth alerts, including the date by which they must cease.
    2. Information about the MMIWG Inquiry and the recommendation calling upon provincial and territorial governments to immediately end the practice of “birth alerts” which the Inquiry determined disproportionately impacts Indigenous mothers.
    3. A reminder of the duty to report requirements under the CYFSA, including the provisions stipulating that persons who perform professional or official duties with respect to children, including health professionals, and who fail to report a suspicion that a child is in need of protection that is based on information obtained in the course of performing those duties, are guilty of an offence and liable upon conviction to a fine of up to $5,000.
    4. An invitation to meet with the society issuing the letter by September 1, 2020 in order to facilitate collaborative approaches to working with expectant parents, including options for conferencing with respect to birth plans, duty to report training, processes for service referrals, development of local resource guides and consideration and implementation of best practices, options and approaches for engaging non-voluntary clients.

Reporting

  1. Societies are required to confirm in writing to the ministry that it has implemented the requirements in this directive by October 31, 2020.

ISSUANCE OF POLICY DIRECTIVE CW005-20: July 13, 2020

Original signed by

David Remington
Assistant Deputy Minister
Child Welfare and Protection Division
Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services


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