A study on child advocacy

The Vernon Women's Transition House Society has formed committee to find better way of helping kids who have witnessed/experienced violence

Susan Finn

Special to The Morning Star

In the North Okanagan, there are dozens of children every week, month, or year who require specialized services to guide them through difficult times, in particular children who have been abused or who have witnessed abuse.

If you have had experience in working with a child, as a parent, caregiver, foster home, medical examiner, lawyer, police or within the legal system, you know how difficult it is to work through a system that is mainly geared for adults and does not lend itself well to the specific needs and specialized issues of children in our society.

With funding from the Department of Justice, both federally and provincially, the Vernon Women’s Transition House Society is currently undertaking a feasibility study to examine our current situation here in the North Okanagan in dealing with children who have witnessed or experienced violence.   We are examining how a specialized children’s response team and a child-friendly location could better meet the needs of children and increase their resilience during and after a traumatic event.

Often times, children who have been violated or have witnessed violations or abuse (possibly sexual), require interviews from an array of agencies and in a series of different locations, such as the RCMP or the Ministry of Children and Family Services, and may require some form of specific counseling from the Family Resource Centre or the Women’s Transition House Society, possibly several interviews within the legal systems, such as with  lawyers, judges or the courts.  Currently child survivors of sexual abuse must travel out of town for medical services and a consistent, child friendly environment is not available in the North Okanagan. How different would it be if there was one location with streamlined services and one advocate for the child to deal with during this frightening and traumatic time?

It is the vision of the North Okanagan Child Advocacy Response Service Committee, to create a coordinated, streamlined service that would include all agencies who deal with all child survivors of abuse, in the form of a centre that would serve the needs of the children of the North Okanagan.

The committee is comprised of the Vernon Women’s Transition House Society, The Vernon Family Resource Centre, The Ministry of Children and Family Services, The North Okanagan Neurological Association and the RCMP (local detachment) and has been working on mapping existing resources/services, and identifying gaps and overlaps in existing programming/services/resources for children.

If you would like to share any information that would lend itself to enhance this study, or are interested in further information on this project, please contact Susan Finn at suefinn@telus.net or 250-558-8714 or Michelle Novakowski at micheno@telus.net.  The study is expected to be completed by the end of August, 2013.

Susan Finn is a contract researcher at the Vernon Women’s Transition House Society.