Mark Jones, Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre CEO, and Morris Flewwelling, Red Deer College Board of Governors Chair, signed a memorandum of understanding to explore partnership opportunities between the centre and the college. (Photo by Susan Zielinski/Advocate staff)

UPDATED: RDC and child advocacy centre working on a partnership

Permanent site for centre may be built at the college

Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre may have found a permanent location at Red Deer College.

On Thursday officials with RDC and the child advocacy centre signed a memorandum of understanding to continue discussions to explore opportunities to work together to serve children and families in Central Alberta.

Modelled after the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre in Calgary, the centre pulls together staff from agencies like RCMP, family services, mental health, addictions programs, and the Crown prosecutor’s office into one location to discuss cases to avoid duplication, service gaps, and reduce the number of times children impacted by sexual abuse, or the most serious cases of physical abuse and neglect, have to be interviewed.

Mark Jones, the centre’s CEO, said in the first five weeks of operation at its temporary downtown site, more than 40 cases have been reviewed that resulted in 40 forensic interviews with children and youth in Red Deer.

He said the centre has yet to be opened up to the rest of Central Alberta.

“We’ve already really outgrown it,” Jones said about the tempoary site after he signed the memorandum at a ceremony at Red Deer College on Thursday morning.

“It’s important for our organization to have a permanent home.”

He said there’s a definite need in Central Alberta.

“(Children and youth) have suffered huge trauma. For them to come to us and have an opportunity to share their story, it gives them hope that they’re going to heal. With that healing comes recapturing their childhood and their youth to lead a successful life.”

He said a permanent building, that would cost $8 million to build, would provide learning opportunities for RDC students and raise awareness.

“We need to work together and make the visible, visible. We have to start talking about this. It happens in our community. It happens in every community,” Jones said.

College president Joel Ward said land south of the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre has been identified for the centre and construction could begin in next year once a business plan for the project is completed.

“We’re not an ivory tower. We’re all about providing opportunities to 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,” Ward said.

He said Sheldon Kennedy, lead director of the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre, wants RDC to be the place in North America where practitioners come to be trained to learn about the integrated practice approach used at child advocacy centres in Alberta.

“The opportunity for our students to work in that environment really adds to the value of the programs we offer here at the college, never mind the absolute critical need of children and families in this area — why not be a centre of excellence.”

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