The Power of Many – Zebra’s Multi-Disciplinary Team
Zebra Child Protection Centre’s ability to safeguard the interests and wellbeing of abused children and, at the same time, fight for truth and justice comes from its multi-disciplinary team.
Zebra’s Core Multi-Disciplinary Team Members Include:
- Edmonton Police Service Investigators
- Alberta Children’s Services
- Crown Prosecutors
- Volunteer Child and Family Advocates
- Child at Risk Response Teams
- Child and Adolescent Protection Centre
- Trauma Screening Professionals
Discovering the truth behind suspicions and allegations of child abuse is a complex task. Zebra’s collaborative approach lends strength to the child during the investigative process and also lends power to law enforcement. No one agency or professional alone is full equipped to prioritize the wellbeing of a child abuse victim and balance the stringent demands of justice. Using a multi-disciplinary approach is a cornerstone of Best Practices for children’s advocacy centres worldwide. The benefits of collaboration include:
Team Intelligence and Development
- Ability to draw upon insights and expertise of many disciplines
- Ability to draw from greater resources in determining the best professional or agency to tackle tasks and seek solutions
- Checks and balances resulting from discussion of cases from different professional viewpoints
- Tremendous learning environment through collaboration and team training
- Team support through shared experiences and resources
Child-Protection and Promotion of Healing
- Streamlining of the interview process resulting in less trauma for the children
- Ongoing advocacy for the child and non-offending caregivers
- Simplification of the process for children and their non-offending caregivers and support so that the family focus can more quickly go to healing and rebuilding
- More thorough investigations and higher quality of evidence gathering strengthens court cases
Each agency works toward the whole of Zebra’s strength:
Edmonton Police Service – Taking the Lead in Investigation
The detectives assigned to Zebra through the Edmonton Police Services Child Protection Unit specialize in criminal investigations to assess what the child has experienced or what they may have observed or overheard to determine the truth. The detectives are trained to investigate allegations of child abuse as defined by the Criminal Code of Canada and are empowered to lay charges. Through the team approach at Zebra, these detectives receive additional multi-disciplinary training pertaining to techniques for interviewing children and adult suspects. They also have access to additional professional and organizational resources. For example, they may call upon a Children’s Services investigator to participate in the interview process where specific approaches are deemed to be most effective. There are also cases where the gender of the interviewer is important; so the team approach allows for the selection of male or female according to circumstances.
Children’s Services – Intervention and Protection of Children at Risk
Special investigators employed by Children’s Services undertake the responsibility for the safety of our community’s children in at-risk situations. Operating under the governance of the Child Youth and Family Enhancement Act, they put acute safety plans in place and conduct interviews with children to assess abusive conditions. The investigators respond to referrals from family court and Family and Social Services as well as assignments with lead detectives.
Crown Prosecutors – Delivering Justice With Strength and Compassion
Crown Prosecutors from the Family Protection Branch specialize in prosecuting crimes against families, including child abuse. It is their responsibility to assess the likelihood of conviction. The Zebra team reaps many benefits from the involvement of the Crown Prosecutors for both the delivery of justice to suspects and the healing of victims. Joint training programs help develop forensic interview processes and sharpen the skills of investigators in gathering the best evidence for the courts. Zebra is also able to work with the Crown Prosecutors to ensure that the court process is designed in a way that mitigates additional trauma to child victims and their non-offending caregivers.
Volunteer Child and Family Advocates—Friends Indeed to Children In Need
Zebra’s Child and Family Advocates are the “good neighbours” who stand by the children and their families as they deal with the aftermath of abuse and begin the process of rebuilding their lives. They support the victims at pre-trial meetings and court preparation sessions and serve as liaisons to update families and answer any questions they have about the trial process. These volunteers are the “good neighbours” who demonstrate to the victims that they do not have to face the intimidating court processes and challenges of rebuilding their lives alone – they are in a community that cares.
Child at Risk Response Teams (CARRT) –First Responders for Children at Risk
The Child at Risk Response Teams, which comprise a police investigator and a Children’s Services investigator, are the first responders to reports of abuse. Specially trained to assess ‘children at risk’ situations and empowered respectively by the Criminal Code of Canada and Child Youth and Family Enhancement Act, these teams are able to take immediate action to protect the child from further harm. For more information on the Child at Risk Response Teams see the information sheet on our mobile protection unit for children (p.4).
Child and Adolescent Protection Centre (CAPC) – Administering Specialized Medical Services to Abuse Victims
Zebra Centre works closely with the Child and Adolescent Protection Centre at Stollery Children’s Centre. This centre offers our community specialized medical intervention for abuse victims to ensure compassionate treatment as well as appropriate collection of forensic evidence.
The Centre is currently incorporating outside community resources for trauma screening and is referring children and families to community professionals in regard to psychological services required for children, families and the mental well being of the Centre’s staff and volunteer support. Zebra’s continued desire to perform in the best interests of the child and maintain a best practices standard in line with the National Children’s Alliance is being met off site while the Centre advocates to have mental health become a permanent installment at the centre.
As a Crown prosecutor who has worked in close association with advocates from the Zebra Child Protection Centre over the past several years, I am continually amazed at the consistently exemplary service these advocates provide.