If we do not speak up for our kids, we fail as a society, says Toronto Police Service Chief Mark Saunders.
Speaking at the launch of a new public awareness campaign, calling on Torontonians to speak up against child abuse and neglect, he noted that young children are society’s future but also our most vulnerable.
A collaboration involving the TPS, the city’s four children’s aid societies and Boost Child & Youth Advocacy Centre, the Speak up for Kids Toronto campaign was launched at police headquarters on October 8.
“This campaign resonates with me because of the importance of what we have to do,” said Saunders. “It takes a village to raise a child. The difference that one phone call can make if anyone sees a child being physically, emotionally or psychologically abused can make all the difference in the world to a person. That’s why it’s so important that this campaign is loud and clear.”
Nearly two years ago, Toronto’s first Children Youth & Advocacy Centre (CYAC) was opened. 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 in the CYAC catchment area 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 youths can speedily get the assistance they need from social services and police.
“In policing in the days of old, we were doing too many things and creating gaps,” said Saunders. “Now we know the importance of having partnerships like the CYAC, which represents partnerships excellence. I am proud of the fact that Toronto Police is part of that…The ability of conducting investigations is one thing, but the healing process and the re-establishing of self-esteem is so much bigger. By working with partners, we are able to do that now. I wish in a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to do this type of investigation yet here we are, almost two years later, having worked on nearly 1,500 cases.”
The new campaign, which coincides with the launch of Child Abuse Prevention Month observed in October, has as it strong central message, ‘Child Abuse Prevention is a Shared Responsibility.’
“We depend on the members of the community to share with us your concerns about vulnerable children and youth,” said Children’s Aid Society Toronto executive director Janice Robinson. “It takes more than Children’s Aid, advocacy organizations and the police to keep kids safe. It takes you, you to make that call, share the worry that you have and speak up on behalf of that child and youth. Nine times out of 10 in our city, the calls that come to Children’s Aid are from professionals and agencies to provide services to children and youth, yet we know that family members, neighbours and friends are often in a position to know what’s happening to children long before the abusing of children comes to the attention of professionals.”
Boost Child & Youth Advocacy Centre president and Chief Executive Officer Karyn Kennedy believes the groundbreaking collaboration will help bring awareness to a critical issue in our city and inspire Torontonians to step up and assist in making a difference in the lives of children.
“This is an opportunity to remind our community that it’s everyone’s responsibility to help keep kids safe,” said Kennedy.
Two former youth in care, Troy Ellington and Chana Weiss, used spoken-word and poetry, respectively, at the kick-off to urge the community to pull together for the safety of children.
“There are many warning signs in the behaviour of children and youth that may indicate they are suffering abuse or neglect,” said Ellington, a third-year biotechnology student. “Do not hesitate to make a call to your Children’s Aid Society if you have concerns. They are always available to help.”
Weiss is a first-year York University student.
Speak up for Kids Toronto includes a radio campaign that will begin broadcasting later this month on NewsTalk 1010, Virgin Radio and CHUM FM and AM.