Voice of the Child Programs and Services in Canada

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Voice of the Child Reports are well-received by the courts across jurisdictions, and provide a quick turnaround of independent information for parents involved in family law disputes.

This document presents findings from a study that was conducted to understand how children’s views are included in family law disputes in Canada, including through the use of Voice of the Child Reports (VCRs). VCRs, also called Views of the Child Reports or Hear the Child Reports, are increasingly being used in a number of Canadian provinces and territories as a means of obtaining the child’s perspective in parenting disputes between parents and/or guardians. These reports provide information about the child’s perspective on their lives and the matters in dispute based on one or more interviews with a professional.

What we found

Overall, courts report that VCRs are very helpful in family law disputes, as the reports i) allow parents to hear the child’s perspective from a neutral, third-party professional; ii) help the courts to obtain information about the child’s perspective; iii) provide missing information that otherwise would not be presented; and iv) provide a quick turnaround time. The VCRs are also more cost-effective than other methods of including children’s voices.Footnote 3

Half of the interview participants report a lack of diverse representation among the professionals who provide VCRs. To address this feedback, jurisdictions have adapted the reports to better suit the needs of children from different backgrounds, for example, by asking specific questions about their culture, religion and/or diversity; trying to match a culturally specific social worker with the child and consult with a local cultural centre where possible; and by offering diversity training to report writers. VCR teams also report exploring how to diversify their membership through hiring practices. The majority of survey respondents report difficulties in providing services to children in rural, urban and remote communities.

Study Method

Justice Canada contracted Dr. Rachel BirnbaumFootnote 4 to explore how Voice of the Child programs and services and other ways of hearing directly from children and youth (e.g., parenting assessments, child legal representation, child inclusive mediation, judicial interviews) are incorporated into family disputes across the country. The project included the following methods:

For more information, please refer to the full report:
Voice of the Child Programs and Services in Canada by Province and Territory.