Child Support Services
A growing partnership between the Prosecutor’s office and our Centre has enabled us to create joint planning sessions to carry the interests of the child foremost through the criminal justice system process. Through this partnership the Zebra Centre has been able to arrange for the Crown Prosecutors to meet the children at the Centre in our child friendly environment. At the Centre the Crown Prosecutor and the child will go over the initial disclosure of the child and any witness statements. The intent of the meeting is to familiarize the child with the court process and the roles that people play in the courtroom. This approach decreases the child’s anxiety about court and helps the child when taking the stand. To conclude the legal process, the Crown Prosecutor may meet with the child and family after the court proceedings to debrief on what occurred in court.
Child-Friendly Courtrooms and Waiting Areas
Over the past several years the Zebra Centre has worked hard to imprint the importance of child-focused services across the disciplines that deal with cases of abused children. The Edmonton Law Courts Building is now equipped with two permanently designated child-friendly courtrooms. This means that screens are permanently in place for the witness stands for the children; one in provincial court and one in the Queen’s Bench. Additionally, the child-friendly courtrooms have been equipped with closed circuit television capabilities, which allow the child to testify in a separate room from the accused.
The Edmonton Law Courts Building has two Zebra waiting rooms for families, one in the provincial court and one in the Queen’s Bench. These waiting rooms allow the families to wait in privacy throughout the court proceedings and come equipped with play stations, snacks and movies. Zebra’s child advocates, who accompany child witnesses to court, care for the amenities in these facilities to ensure that the environments are comfortable and child-friendly.
Court Preparation Program
The Zebra Child Protection Centre has developed a program to enable child advocates to prepare children for the challenges of being in court. The intention behind the program is to achieve a standard program that addresses the rigours of the judicial system, while honouring the needs of the child. Child advocates are highly trained in court preparation procedures for children and young adults. The Centre provides the advocates with materials and resources designed to help explain what court is like. The intent of familiarizing children with legal proceedings is to alleviate some of the anxiety these children may be feeling about testifying in an adult-focused courtroom. The court preparation takes the worry of the unknown out of the equation so that children are prepared for what will happen in the coutroom.
The Edmonton Police Service understands that the Zebra Child Protection Centre is reflective of what is considered internationally the “Best Practice” approach to dealing with child abuse investigations within the community. I commend the Zebra team for their tenacity, professional expertise, commitment and integrity as they work to deliver on our promise to the children of our community – to make a difference in their lives – one child at a time.
Chief of Police
Edmonton Police Service