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  • Writer's pictureMyrna Driedger

TobaCentre

Did you know? Each year there are more than 200,000 investigations of reported child abuse and neglect in Canada, and approximately 4,000 reported child abuse investigations conducted annually in Manitoba. Child abuse is anything that intentionally endangers the development, security or survival of a child; the act of emotionally, sexually or physically harming a child.

In 2007 the provincial government of Manitoba announced a commitment to bring child advocacy centres to Manitoba. The first phase of developing Manitoba’s centre included creating a space for child victims and their parent/caregivers, including a child friendly/forensic interviewer.

Toba Centre for Children & Youth (formerly Snowflake Place) opened in 2013, offering the safe, neutral, family-friendly setting and in 2015, 2 forensic interviewers began conducting interviews of children and youth. Since that time, they have conducted over 2,500 interviews and been witness to the challenges that children and families face when attempting to navigate the system.

I was pleased to have Christy Dzikowicz, the Executive Director of TobaCentre do a presentation at my Community Leaders Lunch last month. The Lunches, that I hold twice a year, gather community leaders in Charleswood and Headingley for an opportunity to network and listen to a speaker of general interest to all present. Thanks to the donors and government, this is a building where all the partners who deal with children who have suffered abuse can come together. Their efforts to bring those guilty of perpetrating the abuse as well as help the children who have suffered abuse in their healing journey will be made easier by having a place to call their own. And our beloved Assiniboine Park is the perfect place for the home of the new TobaCentre.

Toba Centre for Children & Youth is a charitable organization that coordinates a collaborative approach to interviewing child abuse victims and children who have witnessed violent crimes. They are currently expanding and evolving the centre to achieve the vision that every victim of child abuse, and every child witness to violence, is heard, helped, and healed.

Child advocacy centres are child-friendly spaces in which law enforcement, child protection, prosecution, mental health, medical and victim advocacy professionals work together to investigate abuse, help children heal from abuse, and hold offenders accountable.

This model was developed in the USA in the 1980s. It was created to reduce the amount of stress placed on child and youth victims during sexual abuse investigations and to address the lack of coordination between social services and the criminal justice system that has required victims to repeat their stories during multiple interviews by different agencies, often conducted by staff who are not trained in child development

In common with other child advocacy centres, Toba Centre shares the belief that the combined wisdom of professional knowledge and disciplines will result in a more complete understanding of the case and the most effective child-focused system response. The centre provides an opportunity for police, child and family services, and Toba Centre’s forensic interviewers and case navigators to come together in one location for the purpose of the forensic interview and supporting the child and their care providers in their healing journey.

As a community we all have a responsibility to protect children. Children rely on the adults around them to protect them and keep them safe and to intervene when a situation arises where they are not being kept safe. If you know of a child who may be in danger, I urge you to contact a child protection agency. What is child abuse? How do you know when you should act? Child abuse is anything that intentionally endangers the development, security, or survival of a child. It is the act of physically, sexually or emotionally damaging a child.

When we hear about child abuse, we all feel bad and don’t know what we can do to help. If you wish to make a difference in the lives of children in Manitoba, I urge you to donate your time or resources or money to this worthwhile organization. If you wish to find out more about TobaCentre I suggest you go to their website at https://tobacentre.ca

If you wish to report a case of child abuse, you may call 204-944-4200 or Winnipeg Police Services at 204-986-6222.

*Information taken from the website of TobaCentre.

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