During the Initial Custody period with respect to a child who has been apprehended, the Director of Children’s Services must assess the potential for the child to be returned home. In some cases, the Director may allow the child to return under a Supervision Order. If however, the Director determines that the home environment is not yet an appropriate environment for the child, they will proceed with an application for either a Temporary or a Permanent Guardianship Order.
As with other stages in the child protection process in Alberta, parents or guardians have the right to oppose a Director’s application for an order with respect to their child. If you have been provided with notice that the Director has filed an application for a Permanent Guardianship Order (“PGO”) over your child, it is imperative to act quickly. Once a PGO is ordered, it will have long-lasting or permanent effects on the family. Any parent seeking the return of their child must act quickly and work with knowledgeable legal counsel to oppose this process.
Mincher Koeman can help. Our family law lawyers have considerable experience working within the child protection system in Alberta and have assisted a number of families in opposing various applications of the Director or challenging existing orders. Our lawyers are often sought out by colleagues for advice or services pertaining to child protection, and they have even been asked to provide opinions to courts in the UK on child protection matters in Canada, including on how these matters impact families.
The Director of Children’s Services may determine that a child in their custody should not be returned to the care of their family within a reasonable period of time. In this situation, the Director will apply to the court for a PGO pursuant to Section 34 of the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act. A PGO can be granted in Docket Court or after a hearing. A court may include terms in a PGO with respect to access between the child and a previous guardian and any other person who the child is close to.
Children over the age of 12 years old must give consent to any access ordered by the court.
Section 34 of the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act sets out the three-part test that the court must consider before it grants a PGO:
The court will consider whether the circumstances that caused the child to be in need of intervention have changed, whether the guardians have complied with the terms of any Supervision Order or Temporary Guardianship Order and whether services have been provided. If the court agrees with the Director’s position, it will order a PGO in their favour. A PGO appoints the Director as a guardian of the child and the rights and responsibilities of the child’s guardian are terminated. This is a final determination with respect to the child.
As with Supervision or Temporary Guardianship Orders, a parent or guardian has the right to oppose a Director’s request for a PGO, or challenge an existing PGO. As a PGO has the effect of terminating a parent’s guardianship rights, it is crucial to make every effort to present an effective case at the related hearing. At Mincher Koeman, our team of lawyers has extensive knowledge relating to all aspects of child protection in Alberta and can advise and provide skilled advocacy for clients at every stage of the process. If you are have been notified of an application for a PGO with respect to your child, time is of the essence. Please contact our office for an urgent conversation to discuss your options by calling us at 403-910-3000 or by contacting us online.
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