Special Feature Sheldon Kennedy Ctr March 2015

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Special Feature Sheldon Kennedy Ctr March 2015

Sheldon Kennedy Child

The

Centre

Advocacy

Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy

The

(CAC) is currently the most

Centre

Child Advocacy Centre in

comprehensive

with a mission to provide hope,

Canada,

and healing to children, youth and

help

impacted by child abuse.

families

its doors on February 25, 2013,

Opening

not-for-profit Centre houses over 100

the

under one roof to provide a

professionals

facility with compassionate

one-stop

that ‘wrap around’ the children

services

their families. To ensure child abuse

and

are managed in the best interest of

cases

child within an environment of

the

the CAC works in collaborative

expertise,

with:

partnership

Calgary Police Service (CPS)


Calgary Region, Child and Family


(CFS)

Services

Alberta Health Services (AHS)


Alberta Ministry of Justice Calgary


Prosecutors’ Office

Crown

RCMP •

Alberta Ministry of Education


Centre is an innovative practice

The

that is transforming how the

model

system responds to children

current

have experienced abuse and

who

families in Calgary and the

their

communities.

surrounding

Creating a Safe Space for

to have a Voice

Child Life in a Child Advocacy Centre

Children

Emily Synnott, BASc, CLSt Dipl.


Sheldon Kennedy Child

The

Centre

Advocacy

example of the forward-thinking

One

provided at the Centre is the

practice

of the Child Life Specialist

establishment

in April of 2013, which is currently

position

only position of its kind practicing at a

the

Advocacy Centre in Canada. The

Child

Life Specialist has a neutral role at

Child

Centre supporting many of the

the

Investigations and forensic interviews


Victim advocacy, support and follow-up


Specialized medical evaluation and


treatment

Trauma-focused mental health services


Case review and monitoring


The development of outcome


and research

measurement

increasing visibility, the Centre is

With

towards breaking the stigma and

working

that surrounds child abuse, with

silence

ultimate goal of protecting children

the

creating safer and healthier

and

communities.

Need for Psychosocial

The

for Children and

Support

Impacted by Abuse

Families

an average of 122 new child

Receiving

cases per month, the CAC responds

abuse

the most severe and complex cases of

to

sexual and physical abuse,

child

only 10-15% of the child

representing

cases in Calgary and surrounding

abuse

areas.

has been estimated that over $20 billion

It

are spent each year addressing the

dollars

of child abuse (Bowlus, A., et al.

impacts

in Cooper & Wells, 2014). The impact

2003

child abuse is well documented and has

of

linked to addiction, re-victimization,

been

with the law and mental health

conflict

in adolescence and adulthood (IOM

issues

the experience of abuse is

While

enough to the child and

traumatizing

it is common for children to

family,

re-traumatization or systemic

experience

during the process of being

trauma

after disclosing abuse. High

interviewed

of anxiety can result in an increased

levels

of interviews required to obtain

number

necessary information to lay charges

the

the person who has offended, longer

on

or information that is not

interviews,

enough to proceed with the

substantial

receiving medical and therapeutic

While

for the abuse is a critical part of

treatment

healing process, it does not come easy

the

children and families either. Clearly,

for

to minimize the stress

efforts

the processes following the

accompanying

of abuse are necessary to

disclosure

support children and families.

effectively

and NRC, 2013).

services provided, which include:

• Community education and prevention.

case.


primary role of the Child Life Specialist

The

to meet the psychosocial needs of the

is

and families visiting the Centre,

children

to minimize additional stress and

and

while maximizing coping during

trauma

investigative and treatment process.

the

work begins by creating a childfriendly

This

space for children to feel safe, and

all professionals use a traumafocused

ensuring

and developmentally appropriate

Child Life Specialist is responsible for

The

Child Space, an environment where

the

can feel free to explore and

children

in play activities. Play is essential

engage

children’s ability to cope with stress, as

to

is familiar to them and allows them

play

opportunity to communicate, express

the

and achieve a sense of control.

emotions,

the Child Space is a safe space for

As

professionals can quickly

children,

a therapeutic relationship with

establish

by participating in non-

children

play-based interactions. A

threatening

and child-friendly

non-intimidating

is critically important in

environment

the child’s comfort level and

increasing

trauma (Newman, Dannenfelser,

reducing

Pendleton, 2005). The value of making

&

efforts to put children at ease has

such

established in the investigation

been

as children who are more relaxed

process,

police interviews are able to provide

in

information more easily, resulting

relevant

a more reliable investigation (Collins,

in

The Child Life Program

approach.

Doherty-Sneddon & Doherty, 2013).


presence of a Child Life Specialist has

The

shown to greatly benefit children

been

youth during medical examinations

and

sexual assault (Johnson, 2004).

for

for the evaluation of sexual

Guidelines

of children stress that the medical

abuse

should be explained to the child

exam

and that time must be

beforehand

to relieving the child’s anxiety

allocated

2005).

(Kellogg,

the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy

At

it has become standard practice

Centre,

the children to meet with the Child Life

for

before the medical exam. Using

Specialist

language

developmentally-appropriate

play with anatomically correct

and

and medical equipment, the

puppets

is explained in a step by step

exam

that describes exactly what the

process

can expect from the procedure.

child

this process, misconceptions and

Through

are identified and can be

worries

Child Life Specialist empowers

The

and their caregiver/support

children

to take an active role and maintain

person

throughout the exam by asking

control

identifying needs, and making

questions,

of coping strategies discussed in the

use

If requested by child, or if an

preparation.

support person is not available

emotional

the exam, the Child Life Specialist will

for

support and distraction during the

provide

The Child Life Program

addressed.

exam.


Child Life Program is enhanced by the

The

of the community. The Alberta

support

Hospital and the Pet Access

Children’s

Society provide volunteers to

League

time with and care for children in

spend

Child Space. Being able to provide

the

for children during the forensic

care

has been identified as an

interview

aspect of Child Advocacy

important

as it allows families and staff to

Centres,

on the investigation and the quality

focus

the interview (Newman, Dannenfelser, &

of

generous donations of time, toys,

The

and festive decorations from

blankets,

Calgary, community groups and

Corporate

provide tokens of comfort and

individuals

to children on a day to day basis

normalcy

the Centre. This community support

at

role of the Child Life Specialist and the

the

benefit of Child Life services to

potential

and families who have been

children

by abuse, the building of

impacted

relationships has extended

trusting

health care professionals to those

beyond

in child protection and the

working

and prosecution of child

investigation

By supporting children through

2)

appropriate play and

developmentally

Calgary Police Service and

information,

report that children are entering

RCMP

with lessened anxiety (in

interviews

to children who interviewed

comparison

to investigations being conducted at

prior

CAC) which has resulted in fewer and

the

interviews being required to

shorter

a thorough and effective

complete

and a decreased likelihood of

investigation

for the child

re-traumatization

Following the implementation of

3)

for medical exams by the

preparation

Life Specialist as standard practice,

Child

staff report that the length of

medical

have gone from 60 minutes to 30

exams

on average

minutes

practice at the Centre, the

standard

of an innovative tool to

development

children for the entire experience

prepare

visiting the CAC is currently underway.

of

funds provided by Alberta

With

of Justice, the Child Life

Department

is working with a local app

Specialist

company to develop an

development

app to be used to provide an

interactive

for the children to each stage

orientation

The Child Life Program

Pendleton, 2005).

Future Directions

made it possible for the Child Life and

also

Support Program to provide

Victim

reached the two year mark of

Having

services to the children and

providing

Christmas Care Packages of

individualized

games, activities, clothing, and gift

toys,

at the CAC, the Child Life Program

families

to expand it’s scope. With the

continues

to over 120 children and caregivers

cards

need. in

of the implementation of medical

success

by the Child Life Specialist as

preparations

Initial Outcomes

Promising

Through continued education around

1)

of their involvement with the Centre.

abuse cases


complete, the Child Life Specialist

Once

other professionals at the CAC will use

and

app as a tool to provide children with

the

appropriate information

developmentally

the Centre and any service they are

about

to experience – forensic

scheduled

medical examinations, therapy,

interviews,

the court process. The app will ensure

and

are able to effectively address

professionals

psychosocial needs of the child

the

jeopardizing the requirements of

without

effective investigation and prosecution.

an

on the effectiveness and

Research

of Child Advocacy Centres is

outcomes

with little to no literature outlining

limited,

role of the Child Life Specialist. As part

the

the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy

of

Strategic Directions to champion

Centre’s

practices and establish a Centre of

best

an evaluation of the Child Life

Excellence,

is in development to generate

Program

that will help illustrate the impact of

data

services. By determing evidencebased

the

practice for Child Life services

a Child Advocacy Centre, it may be

within

to identify the provision of Child

possible

services as best practice for Child

Life

Centres across the country.

Advocacy

learn more about the Sheldon Kennedy

To

Advocacy Centre, please visit our

Child

Program, please contact the Child Life

Life

Specialist:

Synnott, BASc, CLSt Dipl.

Emily

Child Life Specialist, Sheldon

Certified

Child Advocacy Centre

Kennedy

esynnott@sheldonkennedycac.ca

http://www.calgarysun.com/2013/11/19/playing-to-help-kids-atthe-sheldon-kennedy-child-advocacy-centre

http://www.calgarysun.com/2013/05/22/eric-francis-childadvocacy-centre-bears-fitting-namesake

References

K., Doherty-Sneddon, G. & Doherty, M. (2014). Practitioner

Collins,

on rapport building during child investigative

perspectives

Psychology, Crime and Law, 20(9), 884-901.

interviews.

M. & Wells, L. (2014). Preventing child maltreatment: A

Cooper,

strategy for stopping

critical

partner violence in the next generation. Calgary, AB:

intimate

University of Calgary, Shift:

The

(Institute of Medicine) and NRC (National Research

IOM

2014. New directions in child abuse and neglect

Council).

Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

research.

T. L. (2004). Updates and current trends in child

Johnson,

Clinical Pediatric Emergency Medicine, 5(4), 270-275.

protection.

N. (2005). The evaluation of sexual abuse in children.

Kellog,

116(2), 506-512.

Pediatrics,

B. S., Dannenfelser, P. L., & Pendleton, D. (2005). Child

Newman,

investigations: Reasons for using Child Advocacy Centers

abuse

suggestions for improvement. Child and Adolescent Social

and

The Child Life Program

403-428-5327

Media

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rsRfNsbVsCI

The Project to End Domestic Violence.

at www.sheldonkennedycac.ca. If

website

wish to learn more about the Child

you

Work Journal, 22(2), 165-181.

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