In June, the SVP Teens were able to cap off their most successful year to date by awarding their Community Grant. Over the prior couple months, the teens had conducted an informative selection process during which the group learned in-depth about several local charities in Waterloo Region and the challenges that they and the community are facing.
After careful consideration, the group chose to award a grant of $3,500 in unrestricted funding to the Child Witness Centre (CWC), a Kitchener-based charity providing support, education and advocacy for children and youth who are or may become victims or witnesses of abuse or crime.
“Child Witness Centre was something I had never heard of before and many people who participated in the grant application process had never heard about either. When we had the call with the organization, a lot of us were almost in tears by the end of it because of the impact [that being a witness or victim of abuse or crime] has on a person, and that they can carry [the burden] with them for their entire life,” shared Maddie Cranston, 2020-21 SVP Teens Chair.
“You see such a large impact happen with this amount of money, it was such an incredible thing to be a part of and think about how you can change somebody’s life with one action. I think we really connected with the idea of the big impact we can have.”
We connected with Tenley Soares, Director of Development at CWC, to learn more about their organization and the impactful work they do:
The Child Witness Centre’s two main streams of programming: the Child and Youth Advocacy Centre and the Child Witness Program
“Our primary objectives are to ensure that those we assist are involved, informed and supported. The Child and Youth Advocacy Centre (CYAC) runs out of Queen Street at Carizon Family and Community Services and is a community collaboration between Child Witness Centre, Waterloo Regional Police and Family and Children’s Services. When a young person is a victim or witness of abuse, our Advocates ensure that they and their families are supported through an investigation and beyond, even if charges are not laid.
Our trained Advocates assist youth and their families, through the investigations by police and child welfare workers, providing them with information about the investigative process, supporting their emotional needs and assessing their needs for additional support. They also provide wraparound support once the investigation has been completed, helping to navigate and connect them with the services in our community that will meet their individual needs.
The Child Witness Program is based on a referral. As families are referred, they meet with our case workers, in a safe space. The crown attorney can come over to us and explain the process, but more importantly, as our case workers are supporting the child, they can explain the process to them. It is an emotionally draining process for everyone, but children and youth can have someone who is with them through the entire journey.
Case workers are specialized professionals who can walk alongside these children and these families and help them have a voice, help them understand what is going to happen. The case workers are so integral to the healing and well-being [of the children and youth] and setting them up for future success.”
Some challenges around educating the community
“It’s one of those double-edged swords, because you don’t ever want to need us. The messaging is: we are there for you if you ever do find yourself in that situation. It is a tough topic for anyone to talk about. I was talking to a parent last week who said ‘I didn’t know you existed, but I am so glad you do because our family wouldn’t have made it without you, and our daughter wouldn’t be where she is now without you.’”
The lasting impacts of abuse or crime on young people
“Sometimes it is a family member who is involved, so there isn’t anyone else to help them. It’s often not a situation where children have support from the people they should. It is difficult to stay in their homes; sometimes, homelessness becomes an issue. Mental health is a huge part of this. If they have support throughout the process to heal and have that hope for the future, they have the strength to help shape the future of our community. Stats show that boys who are abused by a family member are 45x more likely to perpetrate dating violence as adolescents. (Lansford et al, 2007; Irish et al, 2009). The work we do is so critical to changing their trajectory.
A concerning observation from the COVID-19 shutdown
“We did see a dip in numbers when we were in the early stages of the pandemic. It was emotional for everyone because we anticipated that was a temporary thing. Home is often not a safe place for children and youth and without access to school where teachers look out for and notice things where there is cause for concern. As things began to open back up, we had a period where six cases reported at CYAC in a very short amount of time. Our feeling is that those numbers are going to climb.”
The experience of working with SVP Teens during the application process
“We talked about it a lot over at Child Witness Centre because everyone was so engaged, so efficient. I felt well supported throughout that whole process. I always knew what was going on, and we were updated regularly. The group is fantastic. I was so impressed by them and their thoughtful consideration of what we do – it is tough material. Such a mature audience for a young group of people.”
Adding a furry face to the Child Witness Centre team
“When we applied to SVP Teens, we did focus our application on Monet, who is our facility dog (pictured above.) Monet is the first facility dog in Waterloo Region to work in the court system. The support that a facility dog can provide is huge. There is a calming element that an animal can provide by just having it with you, the comfort that provides. Monet is going to be working with clients and providing court support in step with our caseworkers.”
How can you help?
Donate to the Child Witness Centre. Visit our website at www.childwitness.com
Connect with Tenley Soares, Director of Development at CWC.
Follow the Child Witness Centre on Facebook and Twitter: