BY ZACHARY CORMIER
Coming together was the central theme in Red Deer on Tuesday as citizens and community organizations from around Central Alberta gathered as Sheldon Kennedy announced plans for a new Child Advocacy Centre in Red Deer.
The new Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre will bring together people and organizations from the community to offer a variety of services to children, youth, and families that have been impacted by child abuse.
“That’s what these issues need. We need to be able to share important information in the best interests of the child so that we can have the best outcomes. I’m here to support and help in any way we can,” said Sheldon Kennedy, a former National Hockey League player and long-time child abuse advocate.
The new Centre, which is being spearheaded by a committee of local volunteers, will be modelled after the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre in Calgary and will create a single space that brings together the RCMP, Alberta Health Services, Child and Family Services and Mental Health and Addictions to help streamline the effective use of resources to effectively and efficiently investigate and resolve child abuse cases.
Mark Jones, the co-chair of the CAC committee and a former principal at Central Middle School in Red Deer, said the sharing of information between organizations greatly reduces the burden on a victim.
“I’ll give you a situation of a child who disclosed that they were being sexually abused. So they do the disclosure to me as the administrator. It’s my responsibility to phone Child and Family Services,” said Jones, adding then the child is taken through a series of interviews with various organizations, including the Child and Family Services and in-depth interviews with the RCMP.
“When we went to the Sheldon Kennedy Centre, what we saw was them interview that child in one room. Everybody together, it’s a taped interview. Over 90 per cent of those interviews the child has to do one interview, one time and it’s done. That, to me is monumental.”
Kennedy said true integration is the ultimate goal when it comes to dealing with cases of child abuse.
“To me this isn’t an end-game. To me this is about progress and to keep making progress, continuous progress. I do know this – when we work together, we’re better. End of story.”
While no plans are set in stone in terms of location and costs of the Centre, Jones said the coalition has been discussing a number of different options.
“Whether we have a stand alone building or we have a centre where we can have lots of opportunities to have other agencies in there. We’re still in the discussion stages of that. Our hope is to have that finalized hopefully in the next 90 to 120 days.”
On Sept. 15th, the committee is hosting a screening of the Sheldon Kennedy documentary Swift Current at the Red Deer College Arts Centre. Jones said the screening will be a launch pad for other fundraising initiatives.