In the first three months since the city’s first Child Youth & Advocacy Centre (CYAC) opened last October, Toronto Police have investigated 291 occurrences.
Of those occurrences, about 185 are physical and nearly 70 are sexual-abuse allegations and laid 40 charges against repeat offenders.
They have also interviewed 420 victims and witnesses in the two interview rooms at the facility at 890 Yonge St.
“To say that we have been very busy is an understatement,” said Detective Sergeant Greg Payne, who leads the Toronto police officers assigned to the CYAC to handle child sexual-abuse cases involving known offenders. “The majority of the cases are of a physical abuse nature committed by family members, including step-parents. The cases involving family members are troubling because you expect children to be safe in that environment.
“…But what has been more fulfilling is that operating under one roof has been enormously beneficial for us and the other partners that are part of the centre.”
The multi-disciplinary team, that also includes child protection and medical, mental health and victim services, provide a wide range of services such as co-ordinated forensic reviews, medical examinations, victim advocacy, trauma assessment and counselling in a coordinated approach at one location.
With the creation of the agency, abused children no longer have to travel around the city to get the help and services they require. With the police, the Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, the Safe-T Program, the Suspected Child Abuse & Neglect Program and Boost Child Abuse Prevention & Intervention agency in the same building, abused youth can speedily get the assistance they need from social services and police.
By offering as range of services under one roof, the CYAC at Boost is providing much-needed assistance to victims of abuse and their families right here in the Toronto area
“After interviewing the child, all the organizations here get involved and take ownership while planning the rest of the steps,” Payne said. “Everybody is on the same page and the operation is going smoothly.”
Officers work 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday to Friday. Two officers are on call from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. and on weekends.
Police investigate physical assaults, emotional abuse or neglect occurrences when the victim is under 16 and the suspect is a caregiver, parent or person in a position of trust or authority, or when the suspect is known and the offences are not within the mandate of the Sex Crimes investigative office; and occurrences entitled “Child in Need of Protection” or “Child Left Unattended.”
Recognizing the importance of the centre, the federal government is providing $300,000 in funding to help young victims and their families.
“The quality and dedication of the individuals who provide this service is spectacular,” said Attorney General and federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay at a press conference at the CYAC on Feb 14. “For more than 30 years, child and youth victims of abuse have been benefiting from the services provided by Boost. Our government’s funding and support will help Boost and its many community partners enhance their services for vulnerable young victims and their families, lessen the risk of them being re-victimized and help ensure they are more effectively heard and included in a meaningful way in our country’s criminal justice system.”
Bob Dechert, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Justice, attended the press conference and said child and youth advocacy centres are designed to help the most vulnerable navigate the challenges of the justice system and offer them a stronger voice in how justice is carried out.
“By offering as range of services under one roof, the CYAC at Boost is providing much-needed assistance to victims of abuse and their families right here in the Toronto area,” he added.
Staffed by Payne, two detectives and 14 detective constables, the unit – with the support of its community partners – investigates child abuse cases in 11 of the Service’s 17 Divisions. They include Central Field Command that comprises 11, 12, 13, 14, 51, 52, 53, 54 and 55 Divisions, along with 32 and 33 Divisions.