Plans for a new ‘Centre of Excellence’ for the Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre (CACAC) at the RDC Main Campus took a major step forward Friday.
The province officially announced the passing of an Order in Council on December 4 that enables RDC to allocate jost over one acre of land to the CACAC for construction of a new stand-alone facility in support of child advocacy services and education.
The approval relates directly to the Memorandum of Understanding signed by RDC and CACAC in February of this year which identified building the Centre of Excellence.
Terry Loewen, Board Chair for the CACAC says the new facility will allow them to not only help a growing number of children and families heal, but to also offer education on the issue of child abuse in our community.
“We work very hard on the healing part but we really have to get the prevention part going because that will stave-off a lot of the future abuse that’s going to go on,” says Loewen. “So the fact Red Deer College has stepped up and given us this land, that’s one thing but the other thing is the work that they’re going to do behind the scenes with their students at Red Deer College to work on the prevention and education part.”
Plans call for the three-story, 30,000 square foot Centre of Excellence to be built in the southwest area of RDC’s campus overlooking a nature pond surrounded by trees, a location Loewen feels is perfect.
“The people that are working in our centre are working around very dark issues and you have to look after the people that are working for you and their mental wellness as well,” explains Loewen. “They’re hearing the worst things that you could ever imagine. So it’s important they look out our window and they see a pond and trees and nature and they can go for a walk around the pond to clear their head because if they’re not mentally well, how are they going to help our children?”
With the CACAC’s capital campaign underway, Loewen hopes to see construction of the $8 million facility get started sometime in April or May.
“We’ve got a little over a million in the bank from events we’ve already done and the lottery home,” says Loewen. “We’re hoping if we can sell-out the lottery home, that will give us another million and a half and go forward there with hopefully some private funding which we’ve been working behind the scenes on already. If we can get to the $4 million mark come early spring, then a very generous businessman may put some security up for the remainder of the money so we can get started.”
RDC President and CEO Joel Ward says the 50-year land lease they’re offering the Centre of Excellence is not only great for the CACAC but also for the type of institution they’re trying to build at RDC.
“This new university will be the type of university that looks for partnerships like that,” states Ward. “It provides opportunities for our students, makes a difference in our communities and enables the partnerships we already have to continue to grow. But more importantly the work that they need to do and the work that they’re doing, we have to support because this area is one that unfortunately has a very growing need and this will do a lot to address the families and children in distress in central Alberta.”
Ward points-out a lot of the work done by the centre aligns well the programs they offer at RDC.
“Our Justice Studies program, our Sociology program, our Early Childhood Education program, our Education degree, enabling our teachers to understand and look for the symptoms of children in distress right in the classroom, so early intervention,” he explains. “So we have an opportunity not only to support what the Child Advocacy Centre is doing but provide great learning opportunities for our students who can go into that field and make a difference.”
Red Deer South MLA Barb Miller admits the centre is something you wish the community didn’t need but adds she’s grateful to have it and the new Centre of Excellence on the way.
“They posted the other day that 318 cases had come through their office in less than a year,” exclaims Miller. “This Centre of Excellence that we’re going to build here is going to be top of the line and help all the kids and youth that unfortunately need this service. What we’ve done is we’ve allowed all of the different branches of Children’s Services, Health Services, everything to go on site so the children only have to be interviewed once so it reduces the trauma and makes things easier for them.”
Officials say the Centre of Excellence will also expand victim support services, as well as offer increasing programs for vulnerable individuals, children, youth and families closer to home.
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