A comforting environment is important for people who are facing difficult times, especially when they are children.
The Child Advocacy Center of Niagara, a facility that cares for victims of child abuse and trauma, has moved into new facilities that are more kid-friendly and have improved resources.
The center is connected to the Emergency Department of the Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, making it easier to address the needs of young victims. Executive Director Ann Marie Tucker told WBFO she is hopeful the upgraded center will help more children escape dangerous situations.
“This really allows us to do it better and that warm, welcoming environment is so critical,” Tucker said. “A third of the children that we see [are] under the age of 7. This is a confusing and frightening time for children and families and we’re here to provide safety, support and to help them through this process and ultimately as a community to protect them.”
The facility in the Golisano Center for Community Health on Tenth Street has a classroom where child abuse prevention sessions are held. There is also an interviewing room with improved equipment. Children can be interviewed by one individual as law enforcers or social services inconspicuously listen to the session.
“Our new facility does it in a way where it’s especially welcoming. The child is able to interact with the system in an environment that’s designed to be child-focused and child-friendly. All in all, what it means is better investigations and reducing the trauma for the children,” Tucker said.
Last year, the Safe Harbour program was launched, an initiative that aims to protect children who have been trafficked or are at risk of being trafficked.
Since its beginning in 1995, the Child Advocacy Center of Niagara has helped 5,000 children and their relatives. Tucker said advocates are pleased that the tradition will continue at an improved location.
“This new facility is designed just for us. It’s warm and welcoming to children and families,” she said. “It’s also efficient for our staff and for our team members and partner agencies so it’s really important for us when we serve children to be able to have a physical setup that’s designed to meet their needs.”