Families victimized by child abuse will soon have a state-of-the-art facility to turn to in Calgary.
Scheduled for a fall 2012 opening, the Calgary Child Advocacy Centre (CAC) will use the combined strength of the Calgary Police Service (CPS), Alberta Health Services (AHS), Calgary and Area Child and Family Services Authority and Alberta Justice Crown prosecutors to provide services regarding the abuse and mistreatment of Calgary’s youth. The facility will be located across the street from the Alberta Children’s Hospital on the fourth floor of the Child Development Centre at the University of Calgary.
Former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy approached CPS chief Rick Hanson 18 months ago, expressing interest in the creation of an advocacy centre. Shortly after, Tara Robinson, executive director of the CAC, was hired and a board of directors was formed, including Kennedy.
“We’re so glad to have him on our founding board of directors. He’s an incredible face for this centre and his passion inspires all of us,” says Robinson.
The board was tasked with raising funds to build a new facility. The provincial government supplied the board with $1 million for developing a team and securing equipment and a lease. Cenovus Energy and Arc Resources donated $1 million each, leaving the board with approximately $5.5 million left to raise in order to meet their goals.
Robinson says most of that money will come from corporate Calgary, but she is also applying for further funding from the federal government.
“All the stars have aligned for us,” says Robinson.
Chief Hanson has also played a pivotal role in making the CAC a reality by getting the heads of various organizations onto the board of directors.
“He is so passionate about children and he firmly believes in getting to children when and before the issues happen,” says Robinson.
The new centre will consist of 25,000 square feet of space, 8,000 of which will be dedicated solely to areas for children. State of the art forensic interview rooms, medical facilities, a therapy wing and a training centre will all be under the same roof.
Currently, a child or family threatened by abuse or mistreatment has to run a gauntlet of government services to get the proper care: Calgary Police, the courthouse, social services and the hospital. The new CAC will provide all the necessary services and more under one roof.
“People wonder why we don’t have this already, it just makes so much sense,” says Robinson.
According to Statistics Canada nearly 55,000 children and youth were victims of physical or sexual abuse in 2009, and 30 per cent of those crimes were committed by the parents of the victim. The risk for girls is four times higher than the risk for boys.
The CPS Child Abuse Unit and Child At Risk Response Team (CARRT) investigates sexual assaults and severe physical assaults to minors. In 2010, CARRT responded to 1,447 calls related to children under the age of 14.
“People have no idea what’s going on out there in our city and across southern Alberta when it comes to our kids. The level of violence and the
depravity of the violence being inflicted on our kids is shocking,” says Robinson.
“They can come to this place and get all the help they need for as long as they need it.”
Construction of the new centre begins in May and it is scheduled to open on November 1.