Child advocacy centre closer to reality in Toronto

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crimebeatTORONTO – Crimebeat – The City of Toronto continues to take leadership in issues key to making the community a better and safer place for citizens. Children’s advocates are one step closer to opening a centre that will provide a coordinated approach to child-abuse investigations. The Toronto Police Service welcomed the announcement that the federal government and local philanthropists will fund the city’s first-ever Child & Youth Advocacy Centre (CYAC). The centre will house all the professionals required to take part in an investigation, from law enforcement and child protection staff to medical professional and trauma counsellors.

The federal government, through the Department of Justice Canada’s Victim Fund are contributing over $275,000, while the Rogers Family and the Sheldon Inwentash & Lynn Factor Charitable Foundation have each donated $250,000. The funding was presented on Jan. 20 at police headquarters to Boost Child Abuse Prevention & Intervention, charged with the responsibility of establishing the new centre.

“Today, we celebrate the announcement of an incredibly generous offer of support from our community partners, who have provided us with an opportunity to bring to life a centre where we can provide one-stop shopping services to children and families who are in need of those services,” Chief Bill Blair said. “I am confident that, through this investment, there will be an extraordinary return and that the people of Toronto will be better served and, most importantly, the children of this city will be better protected because we are going to work better together.”

In making the funding announcement, Canada’s Justice Minister and Attorney General Rob Nicholson said the government is committed to protecting Canadians, particularly those most vulnerable, such as young victims of crime. “We are also fulfilling our commitment to give victims a stronger voice within the criminal justice system and I am proud that we have introduced several pieces of legislation to better protect the rights of victims and children to make sure our communities are safer,” said Nicholson. “I think this is an idea whose time has come and I congratulate all those who have worked so hard to make this a reality.”

Toronto Police, along with the SCAN program at Sick Kids Hospital, the Safe-T program at Thistletown Regional Centre, the Gatehouse, Boost and four children’s aid societies, have been working for the past few years on the creation of a child-advocacy centre. “This centre has been a priority for Chief Blair and our Service for the past six years,” said S/Supt. Jane Wilcox. “This indeed is a special day.”

Boost executive director Karyn Kennedy said that having all the services together in one location will significantly improve their ability to respond effectively to children, youth and their families when abuse is reported.

“We are committed to making this process less traumatic for children, youth and their families,” she pointed out.

“The CYAC will bring together all of the professionals and services in one location, so that children and families don’t have to go to multiple places and speak to multiple people to get the support they need. When I reflect on the 25 years I have worked in the field of child abuse, I can recall many children, youth and their families who would have benefited from what a child and youth advocacy centre has to offer. There were children who we interviewed in places that weren’t child-friendly, and families that didn’t know where to go for support or answer the questions they had.

One goal of the centre is to minimize the number of interviews and questions a child must answer, to avoid re-traumatizing the victim.

“The Toronto centre will change all of that. No more will children have to tell their story over and over, no longer will families experience confusion about where to go and how to get the help they need. Not only will the centre improve this very difficult experience for children, youth and their families, but it will bring together professionals from every discipline to work together as a team that will learn from one another and build on that knowledge and expertise.”

Kennedy said Boost already has the resources needed to deliver the services. “What we still need is a building, essentially, and the donation that we have is a great start towards that,” she added.

“We are looking at about $1.5 million to get started, and then slightly less on a yearly basis. We are aiming for January 2013.”

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