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New grant to help child victims of sexual abuse

Advocacy groups pleased, but call for more sustainable funding

By: Amy Crofts

  |  Posted: Saturday, May 10, 2014 06:00 am

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There will be more help available for children suffering from sexual abuse, the province announced Thursday.

A new grant is being piloted to improve access to counselling for children who are victims of child abuse and exploitation. The $150,000 per year grant is available to child advocacy centres through Alberta Justice and the solicitor general.

The Zebra Child Protection Centre in Edmonton is one of the organizations eligible for the funding.

The not-for-profit has seven staff and 48 volunteers who run counselling services, treatment and court navigation programs.

By the end of September 2013, the Zebra centre had assisted more than 1,500 clients.

Funding is critical to keep programs running, said Bob Hassel, CEO of the centre.

“If we had one bad year where we didn’t receive corporate or community donations, or for some reason didn’t receive a grant, we would really be in jeopardy of closing some of these essential programs,” said Hassel.

A potion of the proceeds from the RunWild Marathon last weekend went to the Zebra centre. In December last year, Grade 1 students from École Father Jan School donated backpacks filled with toys, books and essential items for the centre’s child victims.

Hassel, who attended the Child Sexual Abuse forum in Calgary on Thursday where the grant was announced, said the funding and the forum are a step in the right direction.

“I am extremely impressed. The community needs to know what’s happening, we need to protect the most vulnerable people in our society, which are our children.”

But he is now concerned about how the centre’s programs will be funded long-term.

“What if it it’s not enough money and how do we get more?” remarked Hassel.

The government should commit to sustainable funding, added Colleen MacDougall, executive director of Little Warriors. The Edmonton-based organization is dedicated to the awareness, prevention and treatment for victims of child sexual abuse. It offers its Stewards of Children prevention program for adults in St. Albert and Morinville.

“Putting the funds now, today, towards treatment centres is paramount to stopping this,” said MacDougall.

“Ninety-five per cent of child sexual abuse is never reported. If larger grants and more funding were made available, (imagine) how many more children we could actually spread our reach to and help treat.”

MacDougall said this is an opportunity for the province to “put its foot in front of the rest of the world by having discussions with communities about how to stop and prevent child sexual abuse.”

Doreen Slessor, executive director of the Stop Abuse in Families Society, said educating the community on child sexual abuse needs to be aligned with the programs available to victims.

“There is a point where you need to have the programming to support the education,” said Slessor.

SAIF staff often refer child victims of sexual abuse to specialized programs at the Zebra centre.

“Now that you have an army of people identifying, recognizing and reporting, let’s make sure that we have backed that up on the program side … and provide support for the people,” she added.

Funding for the Counselling for Children grant comes from victim fine surcharges offenders pay on provincial fines and federal offences collected through the court system.


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