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Barrie's safe space for abused children opening soon

Child Advocacy Centre a kid-friendly place for investigations and healing
Dave Hossack
Former Barrie cop David Hossack is the interim executive director of the Child Advocacy Centre of Simcoe Muskoka and the new Centre in Barrie. Sue Sgambati/BarrieToday

Dave Hossack stands in the empty unit on Cedar Pointe Drive and outlines the vision for Barrie's new Child Advocacy Centre.

It will be a safe place where children and youth will come to tell police their stories of abuse and neglect in a child friendly environment. 

"We will have a forensic interview room, which is really the meat and potatoes of it," said Hossack, a former Barrie Police officer who is now interim director of the Child Advocacy Centre of Simcoe Muskoka.

"We'll have a monitor room. We'll also have a family room which is really neat, especially with younger kids' families. It's a play area in some ways."

The play room will filled with stuffed animals, books and games to be used not just by victims but also their siblings.  

Barrie's new facility is an expansion of the Child Advocacy Centre of Simcoe Muskoka in Orillia, which until now was the only location in the county.

The new centre is being made possible by $1.8 in funding recently announced by the province to go toward 15 pilot projects aimed at improving police response to sexual violence and harassment.

Barrie Police received $139,363 to create the centre and with it a multifaceted, seamless approach that will reduce further traumatizing victims.

An advocate will be assigned to victims to help them navigate through the complexities of the court system.

Multiple agencies will work together under one roof, streamlining what can be a frustrating, wearying system for victims and their families.

In 2016, Barrie Police along with child protection services investigated 934 abuse incidents.

The numbers only represent investigations involving those under the age of 16.

"Kids that are going through these situations are terrified to start with," Hossack explains. 

"But this is the whole idea - to make it as kid friendly and stress free as possible given the trauma they have faced and are continuing to face through the investigative process. We can't immediately lessen the trauma of the event but we can help to start that path and lessen the trauma of the interview."

Hossack worked these cases as a cop in the 1990's and says investigations are now light years ahead of what they were in those days.

"There just wasn't the awareness in society about the problem," he said. "Society now has more focus on some of these awful things that people do to their kids and other people's kids."

Sears is donating all the furniture to the centre but the facility needs many more corporate and community sponsors.

Ideally, Hossack hopes someone will adopt the centre as its charity of choice.

"Somebody either established in the community and has always supported just causes in the community or somebody new coming into the community that wants to say hey we're here for the long haul and we want to make an investment in something really righteous. This is extremely righteous," said Hossack. 

Officials hope to open the doors in June.

"I think it's going to be huge here," Hossack said. 

Sheldon Kennedy will speak at a May 1 luncheon in Barrie where the centre will educate invited guests about Barrie's new facility in the hope of getting support.

Monday in, we hear from Kennedy, one of Canada's most vocal advocates for victims of child abuse, a former NHL player and a victim himself.