A Child's Journey
A Child's Journey to Recovery
Amanda Paton | Director Therapeutic and Advocacy Centres, Parkerville Children and Youth Care
The magic of Christmas is something we all treasure and none more so than the children we serve. This Christmas we ask you, our supporters and community to help us ensure no child in need goes without a little bit of magic this Christmas by purchasing a gift from their wish list or by donating.
Last year more than 1000 children and young people attended one of our Child Advocacy Centres to report their experience of sexual abuse and seek support from the Multiagency Investigation and Support Team (MIST). The MIST is a joint collaboration between Western Australian Police Child Abuse Squad, Department of Communities, Child Protection and Family Support, and Parkerville Children and Youth Care. The joint collaboration brings together forensic, child protection, advocacy, and therapeutic processes in the one location to provide wrap around services to a child and their family following a disclosure of child sexual abuse.
Located within our George Jones Child Advocacy Centre and the Stan and Jean Perron Child Advocacy Centres, each space has been specially designed with the child and family in mind to help create a sense of safety and comfort in what can be a very distressing time for many. They are welcomed by one of the team from the moment they enter the building and are supported throughout the process by one of our Child and Family Advocates. Child abuse creates a ripple effect through a family and can impact their wider support network, including extended family members, grandparents and the broader community. Supporting a child after abuse is a long, and at times challenging journey. We can’t change what has happened to a child or family prior to this point, but we can support them and ensure that they receive specialist advocacy, therapeutic and forensic responses that are trauma informed and child centred.
The role of the Child and Family Advocate is unique in that they remain involved with the family for as long as needed, they are the ongoing point of contact for updates, information and referrals to other relevant supports long after police and child protection have finished. Often, families are feeling quite anxious and overwhelmed when they come in for forensic interview, so having a support person by their side ensures they feel supported and heard throughout the process.
Police detectives and specialist interviewers work tirelessly to ensure that they capture the child’s story in a way that can be used later as their evidence in court during any potential criminal trial. The Child Advocacy Centre allows the interview to be conducted in a safe, comfortable and confidential way to ensure the child is able to recall their terrible experience to their best ability. They work to identify, interview and charge the person responsible for these horrible crimes and ensure that other children at risk of harm are kept safe.
Child Protection and Family Support also play a key role in ensuring that children are kept safe from potential ongoing harm and that the family has access to supports. Whilst connection with police and child protection may be brief, the child and family’s journey with our Advocates and the Child Advocacy Centre may be long term; they have access to specialist psychologists that can provide ongoing assessment and treatment to help them overcome the harmful impacts of abuse.
Our WA team have designed one of the world’s best multiagency response model’s for children who have experienced sexual abuse. But we haven’t done it alone. We’ve had help from our many partners and across the public and private sector. Ongoing support from businesses and our new partnership with Westpac via their Safer Children, Safer Communities program is vital to ensure we are able to continue to provide these much-needed supports.