Making agreements for your child's care

Most of these agreements are for child protection matters only — that is, if a social worker from the Ministry of Children and Family Development (the ministry) or a delegated Aboriginal agency is involved. These agreements aren't for solving most parenting issues under the Family Law Act. Every family is different, so the options here are different for everyone. Some of them might not apply to your situation. Information here is a basic guide. An advocate can help you understand the different options. A lawyer can give you legal advice.

Whether you're involved in a child protection process or you contact the ministry or a delegated Aboriginal agency yourself for support, you can try to make different agreements with them at any time.

Here are some examples:

  • A safety plan says how your child will be cared for during a child protection investigation.
  • A plan of care (or family plan) says how your child's needs will be met while the ministry is involved with your family, such as where your child will live while your case is in court.
  • An access agreement says when and where you can visit your child if the ministry removed your child from your home.
  • A support service agreement sets out the services you need to help you take care of your child, whether your child needs protection or not.
  • A voluntary care agreement is an agreement for your child to be in foster care for a limited time.
  • An Extended Family Program agreement is an agreement for your child to be in the care of a friend or family member for a limited time.
  • A special needs agreement can be made for care and support if your child has a permanent or long-term severe or developmental disability.
Before you sign any agreement with the ministry or a delegated Aboriginal agency, get legal advice. If you can't afford a lawyer, you might be able to get legal aid. Even if you already signed an agreement but you're not happy with it, ask a lawyer if you can get it changed.

You can often make these agreements through collaborative planning and decision making.

  • Make sure you understand exactly what you're agreeing to — including what you have to do and what services the ministry will give you and your child. If you're not sure, keep asking until you're sure.
  • Agree only to what you know is helpful to you and your child. Put your child's best interests first.
  • Find out what you have to give to the ministry to prove you did what you agreed to. For example, if you agree to take parenting classes, find out if you have to give the social worker written proof you attended every class.
  • Make sure the agreement gives you enough time to do what you agree to. Check to make sure others, like counsellors, can work within the time limits. Ask if time limits can be flexible.
  • Find out what happens if you can't do something you agree to. Include this in the agreement.

If you and your family are having a hard time, the ministry or a delegated Aboriginal agency might provide family support services. In some situations, you might be able to use these services to keep your child at home.

Support service agreements can be made with the ministry or delegated Aboriginal agency for things like:

  • services for children and youth
  • counselling
  • in-home support
  • respite care
  • parenting programs
  • support services for children who witness family violence

Support service agreements can last for up to six months. You might be able to renew a support service agreement, depending on your situation.

If you're facing a crisis and can't care for your child at home for a short time, you can make a voluntary care agreement to have your child placed in foster care. For example, if you're a single parent and have to go into the hospital or a treatment program, you can ask for your child to be placed in foster care until you return home.

Having your child placed in care under a voluntary care agreement is not the same as having your child placed in foster care because of child protection concerns. A voluntary care agreement means it's your choice, and you're still your child's guardian.
  • A social worker works with you to make sure a voluntary care agreement is the best option for your situation.
  • You and the social worker make a plan for the earliest possible return of your child and for any support you need after that. A voluntary care agreement is usually for the shortest period of time you need to recover from your crisis. It must be three months or less for children under 5, and six months or less for older children.
  • If you still can't care for your child, the agreement can be renewed for a limited time based on your child's age. The ministry's goal is to bring together families as soon as possible.
  • The social worker agrees to tell you how your child is doing. You're involved in any decisions made about your child. The agreement also says how and when you can visit your child.
  • If your income is high enough, you help pay for your child's care under a voluntary care agreement.

If you can't care for your child for a while, or a social worker wants to take your child from your home, you can ask the ministry to place them with family or friends to care for them. You can arrange for this through an Extended Family Program agreement. This is sometimes called an EFP agreement. It means:

  • You're still your child's legal guardian.
  • Your child doesn't go into foster care. Your child stays with relatives, friends, or others who have a relationship or a cultural or traditional connection with them. This is less upsetting for your child while you can't take care of them.
  • The caregiver (the person caring for your child) gets money and support services from the ministry to care for your child.
  • You must deal with the issues that keep you from caring for your child so the ministry can return your child to you when the agreement ends.
Get clear direction from the social worker, in writing, about what you need to do to have your child returned to you.

The EFP agreement sets out the best way to meet your child's needs, the services and supports your child might need, and how long your child stays with the caregiver.

  • For children under 5, the first agreement can be no longer than three months.
  • For children 5 and over, the first agreement can be no longer than six months.

You might be able to renew the agreement after that if you need to.

If your child has been diagnosed with a permanent or long-term severe or developmental disability, you might be able to get extra help. The ministry might help with services such as respite care, in-home support, autism funding, a child care worker, and nursing support.

The purpose of these services is to help you care for your child in your home. But if your child can't be cared for at home, you might be able to get a special needs agreement.

  • Your child must have a condition that qualifies for the support.
  • You stay involved with your child and continue to be your child's legal guardian.
  • If your income is high enough, you help pay for your child's care under a special needs agreement.

The first agreement can last for up to six months and might be renewed for 12-month periods.

A Children and Youth with Special Needs (CYSN) worker can help with advice about available care and support options. For more information, contact your local Child and Family Services office. Ask to speak to a CYSN worker.

If a relative, friend, or other person cares for your child, they might qualify for government benefits.