Supervised Access

Text: Larger | Smaller

What is supervised access?

When parents separate, access visits with children may be a problem. Sometimes, difficulties arise at the time of the exchange of the child between the parents, or between the parent and a relative, such as a grandparent. Other times, there may be concerns about the visits themselves.

The Supervised Access Program offers separated families a way to deal with some of these problems. Supervised access centres provide a setting where visits and exchanges can take place under the supervision of trained staff and volunteers.

Ministry-funded supervised access centres provide fully supervised on-site visits in a group setting and supervised exchanges when access occurs off-site.

What are the Objectives of Supervised Access?

  • To provide a safe, neutral and child-focused setting for visits between a child and non-custodial parent or other family member.
  • To ensure the safety of all participants, including staff.
  • To provide trained staff and volunteers who are sensitive to the needs of the child.
  • To provide reports of factual observations about the participants’ use of the service.

When might Supervised Visits Occur?

Supervised access centres address a number of different situations, which may arise in custody and access disputes. Supervised visits may be appropriate in cases where there are concerns about the safety of the child and/or the custodial parent; the non-custodial parent has a drug or alcohol problem or a mental health problem; there has been a lengthy separation between the parent and the child; or there is a risk of abduction.

When are Supervised Exchanges Appropriate?

When there is unresolved conflict between the parents, a neutral place to exchange children for visits makes access easier to arrange and reduces tension for the child. Supervised exchanges may also be appropriate when it is necessary to determine if the parent who is visiting with the child is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In other cases, there may be a concern about the safety of the custodial parent during the exchange.

How do I Apply for Supervised Access Services?

Referrals to the program can be self-made and/or are accepted from lawyers, mediators, the courts, mental health professionals and other agencies.

A court order for supervised access is preferred but not required. If there is no court order, the parents must have some other signed written agreement.

Each adult participant must complete an intake interview and agree to follow centre policies and procedures before using the service. All services are pre-arranged. Details will be worked out between both parties and the centre supervisor.

The program reserves the right to determine provision of service. Dates and times of access visits/exchanges are determined by the availability of staff and the facility. All referrals are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. If space is not available, you will be placed on a waiting list and contacted as soon as space becomes available.

Are there costs involved?

Fees for the Supervised Access Program are discussed with the parties at the initial interview. Costs for visits and exchanges are usually shared between parties unless a court order says otherwise. Fees are based on a person’s ability to pay and can be dismissed if they are unaffordable. Parties and their legal counsel can request reports of factual observations of the visits and exchanges for an additional fee.

How do Supervised Access Centres ensure the Safety of Families, Staff and Volunteers?

Safety measures include, but are not limited to the following:

  • staggered drop off and pick up hours;
  • client arrival and departure supervised by staff and/or volunteers;
  • staff or volunteers must monitor children at all times during visits;
  • staff or volunteers arrange for parents to be escorted to their cars by police if there is a safety concern;
  • there is always staff available as back up to the volunteers;
  • develop and maintain a close liaison with the local police;
  • security checks of volunteers and staff are always conducted before employment; and
  • the outdoor play area, if there is one, is enclosed and directly attached to the premises.

Do Supervised Access Centres make Custody and Access Recommendations?

Supervised Access Centres do not make recommendations. They provide a place for visits and exchanges.  Factual observations provided by the supervised access centre may, however, provide information to guide an assessor in making recommendations to the court or may assist the court in making orders that are in the best interest of the child.

Do Supervised Access Centres provide Services other than Supervised Visits and Exchanges?

The staff and volunteers at the supervised access centres do not provide services such as counselling, mediation, therapy, or parent education.

Is there a Limit on the Period of Time a Family can use a Supervised Access Centre?

There is no limit on the period that a family may use the Centre.  In some cases, families require supervised access over a long, or unspecified, period of time (e.g., cases where mental health concerns or violence are issues).

Do Supervised Access Centres provide Service to Children who are in the Care of a Children’s Aid Society?

Supervised access centres funded by Ministry of the Attorney General supervise visits and exchanges in custody and access matters.

Children’s Aid Societies provide supervised access services to children who are in their care.

Are Supervised Access Services provided only by the Government Funded Centres?

Other supervised access arrangements exist in Ontario including private “for profit” centres and private individuals charging a fee for service.  These arrangements are not accountable to the provincial program.  Ministry funded supervised access centres sign an agreement with the ministry requiring them to meet specific criteria.

What should I consider when making arrangements for supervised access?

Situations requiring supervised access can be stressful for everyone involved. Orders and agreements can be created to set out the details of the access. These documents ensure everyone knows what to expect, and can help ensure the safety of both children and parents.

For more information see Information for Court Orders or Agreements and Suggested Wording for Orders or Agreements.

What do I do if I have a Concern about Supervised Access Services?

If you have a concern about supervised access services you should first speak to the supervised access centre directly.  Every centre and provider has a complaints process that you may use to make your concerns known. 

If you have questions about centre or Ministry complaints processes, contact the Supervised Access Program at 416-212-2028 or 1-877-661-9977.

How do I Contact the Centres?

View additional Supervised Access Centre contact information.

Algoma (Sault Ste. Marie)
(705) 945-5050 / 1-800-461-2237

Brant (Brantford)
(519) 751-0466

Bruce (Walkerton, Wiarton)
(519) 371-5991

Cochrane (Timmins, Kapuskasing, Iroquois Falls)
(705) 360-2100

Dufferin (Orangeville)
(519) 941-1530

Durham (Ajax, Oshawa North, Oshawa South)
(905) 619-4565

Elgin (St.Thomas)
(519) 637-1667

Essex (Leamington, Windsor)
(519) 971-0625

Frontenac (Kingston, Sharbot Lake)
(613) 542-8533

Grey (Owen Sound)
(519) 371-5991

Haldimand-Norfolk (Simcoe, Caledonia)
(519) 428-4838

Haliburton (Haliburton)
(705) 742-3803

Halton (Burlington, Milton)
(905) 637-5256

Hamilton-Wentworth (Hamilton Downtown)
(905) 522-9922

Hastings (Belleville, Bancroft)
(613) 968-7362

Huron (Clinton, Exeter, Goderich)
(519) 508-6101 / 1-888-508-6101

Kenora (Kenora, Dryden, Sioux Lookout, Red Lake)
(807) 223-8825 / 1-844-523-8825

Kent (Blenheim, Chatham, Wallaceburg)
(519) 355-1127

Lambton (Sarnia)
(519) 336-0917

Lanark (Smiths Falls)
(613) 284-1900 / 1-877-284-1947

Leeds-Grenville (Brockville)
(613) 345-6007 / 1-877-417-6007

Lennox-Addington (Napanee)
(613) 542-8533

Manitoulin (Little Current)
(705) 566-5866 ext. 2565

Middlesex (London)
(519) 858-9905

Muskoka (Bracebridge, Huntsville)
(705) 526-1095

Niagara North/Niagara South (St. Catharines, Niagara Falls, Welland)
(905) 384-9551

Nipissing (North Bay, Mattawa, Sturgeon Falls)
(705) 472-0678

Northumberland (Cobourg)
(705) 742-3803

Ottawa-Carleton (Ottawa)
(613) 725-3601

Oxford (Tillsonburg, Woodstock)
(519) 533-1379

Parry Sound (Parry Sound, Sundridge)
(705) 384-5225 / 1-800-668-8555

Peel (Brampton, Mississauga)
1-844-373-4515

Perth (Stratford, Listowel)
(519) 508-6101 / 1-888-508-6101

Peterborough (Peterborough)
(705) 742-3803

Prescott-Russell (Hawkesbury)
(613) 632-2333 / 1-877-632-2332

Prince Edward (Picton)
(613) 968-7362

Rainy River (Fort Frances, Atikokan, Emo)
(807) 274-0381 / 1-800-465-7764

Renfrew (Pembroke, Renfrew)
(613) 735-1093

Simcoe (Barrie, Midland, Orillia)
(705) 526-1095

Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry (Cornwall)
(613) 933-1253 / 1-888-426-9177

Sudbury (Espanola, Sudbury)
(705) 566-5866

Thunder Bay (Thunder Bay)
(807) 343-5031

Timiskaming (Englehart, Kirkland Lake, North Cobalt, New Liskeard)
(705) 567-9201 / 1-866-229-5437

Toronto
East York - (Danforth & Greenwood)
Scarborough - (Ellesmere & Neilson; Victoria Park & O’Connor)
Toronto Downtown – (Davenport & Bay)
Etobicoke – (Albion & Kipling)
North Etobicoke – (Jane & Wilson)
North York – (Don Mills & Finch)
(416) 304-1221

Victoria County (Lindsay)
(705) 742-3803

Waterloo (Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge)
(519) 743-1460 / 1-800-653-2256

Wellington (Guelph)
(519) 822-4141 / 1-866-321-4141

York (Aurora, Richmond Hill, Woodbridge)
1-844-373-4515

If you would like a copy of the general program brochure or require information in a more accessible format, please send us an email anthea.jones@ontario.ca or call us at 416-212-2029 or toll-free 1-877-661-9977.

Further Information:

If you would like further information or have any comments regarding the Supervised Access Program, please contact:

Supervised Access Program Manager
Ministry of the Attorney General
700 Bay Street, 3rd Floor
Box 300
Toronto, Ontario M5G 1Z6
Tel: (416) 212-2028 / 1-877-661-9977
Fax: (416) 212-2032

© Queen’s Printer for Ontario, 2005
ISBN 0-7794-6200-9