More than 865 abused children from 78 communities have received help from the Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre in its first two years of operation.
Those sobering numbers are expected to grow steadily higher as public awareness of the facility spreads, said the centre’s CEO, Mark Jones.
“In five years, we will probably see 800 to 1,000 cases a year,” he predicted — coming from more than 100 communities in the region.
That’s why Jones is “thrilled” to get stable and increased operational funding from the provincial government.
He considers it “great news for central Alberta, because it recognizes the good work we are doing, and makes it possible.”
On Friday, Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz announced a new funding model that was designed to channel more predictable, equitable resources into the one-stop advocacy centres that combine medical, police and justice resources to help children who have experienced abuse.
The child-friendly approach aims to reduce trauma and boost healing for the young victims, while helping to convict more offenders.
“Child advocacy centres show the power of public, private and not-for profit organizations working with caring citizens to support children and families affected by abuse,” said Schulz.
The minister explained the new funding is structured to ensure fairness across the province and to give families certainty in accessing needed supports.
Jones said the central Alberta centre will go from receiving $150,000 toward annual operating expenses from the provincial government in 2019, to getting $303,500 a year by the end of 2023.
He believes this increase is mostly due to an expected rise in young clients.
Centres in Edmonton, Grande Prairie, Lloydminster and Fort McMurray are also getting funding boosts. Only Calgary’s centre will see a funding decline.
Lauren Armstrong, press secretary for Children’s Services, said this reflects the change from more “piecemeal” funding that Calgary received in the past, to a new model that’s more consistent with what’s received by other centres.
Provincial dollars make up about 60 per cent of the local centre’s annual operating budget, which also receives federal funds, as well as private and corporate donations.
Besides helping child victims navigate through the medical, police and justice systems, the centre’s goal is to spread knowledge of what signs of trauma look like, so teachers, coaches, church leaders and youth workers can recognize them and help stop the abuse, added Jones.
“We want to teach them what to do if they suspect it, and we want them to recognize that not all kids come in on an equal footing… they have to work with the child who experiences trauma.”