Red Deer College and the Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre have teamed up to explore partnership opportunities that could best serve children and families in central Alberta.
The organizations met at RDC Thursday morning to sign a Memorandum of Understanding that will set the wheels in motion to do just that, and ultimately create a permanent home for the centre on campus.
Officials say the partnership will also allow for the training, professional development and research opportunities for RDC students related to child advocacy services and education.
With a mandate to assess, investigate, intervene and provide treatment for abused children, Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre CEO Mark Jones says their temporary facility in downtown Red Deer is already having an impact just five weeks after opening.
“We’ve already triaged over 40 cases and we’ve had 40 forensic interviews up to this point in time, so there’s a definite need in Red Deer,” says Jones. “That’s in Red Deer area. We’re actually central Alberta, so when we expand it out to the regions all around central Alberta, we are going to be, I am sure, inundated.”
Despite an anticipated growing need for their services, Jones expects to be in their temporary facility for the next two years.
‘We’re looking at a building that’s going to cost about $8 million dollars to build,” admits Jones. “So we’ll be on a major fundraising campaign that will kick-off about March 1. The intention is to have a first class building with all our partners in it.”
Those partner agencies include Child and Family Services, Alberta Health Services, RCMP, Alberta Justice and Alberta Education.
Jones stressed how important it is for the Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre to have a permanent home.
“It gives great opportunity for us to be able to get the awareness out to people and also to have opportunities for students that are coming in to the profession,” explains Jones. “Working with children and youth to have opportunities to have training and the best education possible, I think by training people properly and having opportunities to work in the centre, we have opportunities to save hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
RDC President and CEO Joel Ward says the college’s contribution is essentially the land and its students, saying two potential locations have been identified on campus, with the most likely one being just south of the Gary W. Harris Centre near an environmental pond.
He says the plan is to have the building become the place in North America where practitioners come to be trained to learn about the integrated practice approach.
“If we’re successful, we’ll also be able to ensure that other communities have the benefit of what we learn in this integrated practice approach,” states Ward. “We’re all about providing opportunities for students to connect and to have practicum and applied learning experiences in the real world. Textbook is one thing, being out in a child advocacy centre and seeing what’s happening to children and families, that’s an education you can’t teach in a classroom.”
Lead Director of the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre in Calgary, Sheldon Kennedy, was unable to attend Thursday’s signing of the Memorandum of Understanding but says in a release, he sees first-hand the need for support, counselling and guidance that a child advocacy centre can offer to kids, youth and families impacted by child abuse.
“I believe the Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre will, over time, set a new standard for responding to child abuse. This Memorandum of Understanding with Red Deer College will be the initial step in paving the way to becoming a Centre of Excellence.”
For more information on the Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre, visit www.centralalbertacac.ca.
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