The Government of Ontario established the Children Services Review Board in 1979 under the Children’s Residential Services Act. Similar to other provincial tribunals, the Review Board received government funding and operated at arms-length. The Lieutenant Governor in Council appointed a part-time Chair and part-time Board members.

In 1979, the Review Board had legislative responsibilities to conduct reviews and hearings related to:

  • Regional Director decisions for the licensing of children’s residences;
  • Residential Placement Advisory Committee decisions;
  • A Director’s decision to refuse to approve a proposed adoption placement, or impose a term or condition on an approval;
  • A Director’s decision to refuse disclosure of non-identifying adoption information where disclosure might result in serious physical or emotional harm;
  • Emergency admission of a child to a secure treatment program.

The Children’s Residential Services Act was replaced by its successor legislation, the Child and Family Services Act (CFSA), in 1984, and over time, the tribunal's name was changed to the Child and Family Services Review Board. Section 207 of the Child and Family Services Act provides for the establishment of the Board.

In 1999 one part-time Chair was appointed to lead both the Child and Family Services Review Board and Custody Review Board. Part-time Board members were appointed to both Boards.  In addition, authority to conduct licensing hearings was transferred from the CFSRB to the License Appeal Tribunal.

In 2000, the Board's mandate was expanded as a result of amendments to the Education Act and implementation of the Intercountry Adoption Act.  Due to these changes, the Board now had jurisdiction to review:

  • Appeals of school board expulsions;
  • A Director's refusal to approve a person as eligible and suitable to adopt for the purpose of an intercountry adoption or an approval subject to conditions;
  • A Director's refusal to approve a proposed intercountry adoption or an approval subject to conditions.

The mandate of the Board was significantly broadened as a result of amendments to the Child and Family Services Act, which came into effect on November 30, 2006. As of this date, the Board could hear applications regarding:

  • A children’s aid society decision to remove a Crown Ward, where the child has resided continuously with the foster parent for at least 2 years;
  • Certain client complaints related to children’s aid societies;
  • A children’s aid society decision to remove a child placed for adoption or to refuse an application to adopt a particular child.

The Board’s mandate was further expanded as a result of amendments to the Vital Statistics Act on January 31, 2007.  The full implementation of the Act occurred in the fall of 2007 allowing for the disclosure of identifying information to adopted persons and birth parents. Prior to the full implementation of the Act, some amendments came into force on January 31, 2007 allowing adopted persons, birth parents and in certain circumstances adoptive parents, to make an application to the Board for an order prohibiting disclosure of identifying information where the order is appropriate to prevent sexual harm or significant physical or emotional harm.

In September 2007, the Superior Court of Ontario ruled that sections of the Vital Statistics Act related to the disclosure of identifying information were unconstitutional. As a result, the Board stopped processing or accepting applications for an order prohibiting the disclosure of identifying information. On December 10, 2007, the Government announced that it would not challenge the Court’s decision and would instead introduce new adoption disclosure legislation removing the Board's jurisdiction to hear these applications.

On February 1, 2008, amendments to the Education Act came into force. The Board has kept its jurisdiction to hear appeals of a school board’s expulsion decision. The legislative amendments revoked the principal’s authority to expel a student. Only a school board may expel a pupil from his or her school or from all schools of the school board. School Boards and School Authorities are now required to advise students, parents or guardians of their right to appeal a school board expulsion decision to the CFSRB.