July 08, 2015 - 12:46 PM
VERNON - A cutting-edge pilot project in Vernon will help make things a little easier for young victims of crime.
The much needed North Okanagan child and youth advocacy centre will streamline the process for young victims who have been sexually abused or assaulted, or who have witnessed crime, and will be made up of a team of professionals including police, social workers and victim assistance workers.
Vernon Womens Transition House executive director Brooke McLardy said during a media event Wednesday, July 8, the centre will go a long way in making the currently ‘disjointed and traumatic’ process less intimidating for children and youths, resulting in more disclosure from them and a higher likelihood of conviction against their abusers.
Under the current regime, children and youth undergo a police interview at the Vernon RCMP detachment — a scary place for young people — and are passed off to various agencies from there. The new centre will provide a safe, comfortable place for young people to give police statements and access victims services all under one roof. Caregivers, who are often left to wade through the system alone, will also be able to access services at the centre.
There’s still work to be done finding a site and hiring and training staff, but the new centre is expected to open in the next several months. The centre will assist an estimated 250 children and youth a year through the justice system, and McLardy expects it could be more than that as the program grows.
Federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay was on hand Wednesday to announce $350,000 in funding over the next two years to help the advocacy centre get off the ground.
MacKay said the centre is one of 25 across the province, and hopes it will lead the way in transforming how young victims of crime navigate the justice system. He noted the ‘life-saving’ work of local Vernon agencies, and benefits of their collaborative approach.
“This is the magic, if you will, of child and youth advocacy centres,” MacKay said.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015