Agencies join forces to stop child abuse
If you are suspicious of child abuse or neglect. If you think it might be but really don’t know. If you are worried or concerned about a child.
It is your duty, legally and ethically.
No proof is needed, only genuine concern.
The children’s aid society — locally Family and Children’s Services Niagara — is the agency whose mandate it is to investigate allegations of abuse or neglect. It has a team which will make that determination.
“If you’re not sure, call,” said Anna Bozza, executive director of FACS Niagara. “We’ll have a conversation.”
In Niagara, 14 agencies are working together to help make it easier for our community to keep children safe. They are the founders of PECAN — Partners to End Child Abuse in Niagara — and they have created a one-stop-shop website that helps people navigate their way through questions about child abuse.
The searchable, interactive site was launched earlier this year and offers tools and information to target the awareness, prevention and response to child abuse.
It combines the expertise of local agencies and offers easy access to the public, said Andrea Jack, chair of PECAN. Agencies including The Kristen French Child and Advocacy Centre Niagara, the John Howard Society of Niagara, both public and Catholic school boards, and Pathstone Mental Health are just some of the agencies involved.
It’s about taking a community of leaders working together to end child abuse, said Janet Handy, executive director of the child advocacy centre.
And in that same spirit of community, it takes ordinary, everyday people to report suspicions of abuse, she said.
And yet, people might be reluctant. They might assume someone else will do it. They might worry that they’ll be identified. And they might hesitate because they aren’t sure if what they suspect is really abuse or neglect. Maybe they’re wrong?
The overwhelming message is to call FACS.
It’s a myth that a child protection agency always takes the children, said Bozza. In fact, its rate of admission to care is less than four per cent. And 75 per cent of children in care will be returned to their parents or family in three months, she said.
“The biggest assurance people need is that they don’t need to make that decision,” said Handy.
“They think they have to have the answers before they call.”
Indeed, child abuse is not always absolutely obvious. There are many nuances and shades of grey, said Jay Gemmell, executive director of the John Howard Society of Niagara. Leave it to the experts to decide. What is clear is this: If a child discloses abuse, then their voice needs to be heard.
“If someone is feeling harassed, then they are,” said Gemmell. “If a kid says it, you report it.
“You can change the trajectory of a child’s life.”
PECAN — Partners to End Child Abuse in Niagara — is a group of community agencies dedicated to make it easier for people to find help in addressing issues of child abuse. There are 14 agencies involved, including clockwise from left: Janet Handy,...