The money will bolster the work done by child advocacy centres, which bring a multitude of resources – police, social workers, doctors – under one roof and work collaboratively to stop violence against children and get victims the help they need.
Human Services Minister Irfan Sabir said the grant funding will support three existing centres – the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre in Calgary, the Zebra Child Protection Centre in Edmonton, and the Caribou Child and Youth Advocacy Centre in Grande Prairie – as well as four emerging centres in Fort McMurray, Lethbridge, Lloydminster and Red Deer.
Curiously, they excluded Little Warriors Be Brave Ranch which the University of Alberta confirmed was working in significantly reducing the psychological effects of child sex abuse. Why?
"This funding will help us duplicate this work and extend this work throughout the province. We’ll be able to provide supports to vulnerable children throughout the province," Sabir told reporters after Thursday morning's announcement at Mount Royal University.
The existing centres will collaborate with community partners at the emerging centres to "essentially replicate the model of the practice the way they are doing things," he added.
Sheldon Kennedy, director of the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre and former NHL star-turned child rights advocate, said he is pleased the government is making child abuse a top priority in Alberta.
Kennedy said kids that have been abused are at risk of experiencing youth homelessness, of dropping out of high school, and male victims are more at risk of perpetrating dating violence.
His centre sees about 125 cases a month, so it's important for partners to work together, share information and collaborate.
"We cannot fiscally afford to keep trying to put the fire out downstream," Kennedy said. "We know that if we can reach kids early, we’ve got a better chance of turning around their lives there than we do down the road."
Bob Hassel, CEO of the Zebra Centre in Edmonton, was also thrilled with the funding announcement.
"We really need consistency in the province as to how we deal with child abuse. No matter where they are in this province, they deserve the same service delivery model," Hassel said.
"One of the things we need immediately is resources in our centre. We need people to help with this flow of people and children coming through so we can help them navigate through the system."
The Zebra Centre is seeing an increasing caseload, so the funding will help them with building training capacity and building children's support services program, he added.
Hassel said the Zebra Centre, which opened in 2002, was the first of its kind in Canada. Now he estimates there are 25 to 27 in the country. And with Thursday's funding announcement, he said the province has recognized "this is a proven model that works."
I'm not sure how far $1.7 million will go among all those centres, but certainly it will help and it is a good sign that the Alberta government has child sex abuse on its radar. Good for them. I am concerned as to why Little Warriors Be Brave Ranch was left out. Anyone care to explain?