By Carson Ellis
For the Independent
The Town of Stettler council received a delegation from the Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre during its June 20 meeting.
CEO Mark Jones of the Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre (CACAC) says he is currently doing an information tour for the municipalities within the region that the organization services aimed at increasing the centre’s profile and highlighting its efforts to improve how child abuse and mental health cases are handled in the province.
The organization centralizes the groups charged with the care of children and covers an area from Drayton Valley to Rocky Mountain House in the east, Sundre, Caroline, Didsbury, and Drumheller in the south, and through Castor and Coronation out to the Saskatchewan border in the east. The Centre handles the investigation from exposure to court preparations, and AHS treatments that are or may be required afterwards.
The CACAC works to ensure that the various groups involved in handling child abuse cases are working together. The Centre works to improve communication between groups so that the victims involved don’t have to repeat or relive their ordeal at every step; the Centre also helps to ensure that they are receiving any necessary treatment.
The CACAC is a partnership between groups such as Alberta Health Services (AHS), RCMP and Alberta Children’s Services. They have also entered into a partnership with Red Deer Polytechnic (RDP).
Jones notes that the centre deals with mental health and addiction, as well as mental, emotional, and physical abuse, and sex trafficking.
Jones continued that they have 10 school districts within their jurisdiction; the Centre works to help educate teachers and administrators on how to recognize signs of abuse that their students might be showing. They are also able to work with the schools when an abused student is going through the process of reporting abuse, helping them to cope with the ramifications of the reporting and any treatment or assistance afterwards. The Centre has RCMP officers that are trained to handle abuse and trauma cases, and they are tasked with helping local detachments work with child victims during investigations.
A new 3-floor facility has recently been opened on the RDP’s campus. Jones notes their relationship with the post-secondary facility is important because they can help future professionals recognize the signs of child abuse and understand it better.
The first floor of the facility is home to AHS’ Step Up Step Down program which is a live-in mental health treatment program for youth. The second floor is home to the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre, AHS Move Your Mood Studio, and the AHS Red Deer Child and Youth Addiction and Mental Health Outpatient Clinic. The third floor is the offices and resources of the CACAC. The facility is designed to centralize treatment and care for youth in central Alberta.
Jones noted that while he is currently on a public awareness tour with municipalities in the region, his organization plans on doing more outreach in the future to establish funding agreements with communities to help better protect and care for child abuse victims.
After his presentation, Jones was thanked personally by several members of the council for bringing his organization and their services to light for those in the area. Coun. Gord Lawlor also noted that he has been involved with the local Victim Services organization for over twenty years and that the CACAC is streamlining a very complex and difficult process for youth who need it.
The presentation by the CACAC delegation was accepted as information by a motion by Coun. Lawlor.