Toronto Child and Youth Advocacy Centre (Details)

Name of province/ territory:


City/ Region:


Description of Initiative:

This initiative is a partnership among agencies that brings together professionals with expertise in law enforcement, child protection, health and mental health services, prosecution and advocacy in one location to provide integrated services to support children and youth who are victims of physical and sexual abuse and their families.

The Child and Youth Advocacy Centre (CYAC) at Boost (centre for child abuse prevention and intervention) will consist of the Toronto Police Service (TPS), the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto (CAST), the Catholic Chidren’s Aid Society of Toronto (CCAS) and the advocate, all co-located under one roof. The Toronto Police Service will provide one detective sergeant, two detectives and ten detective constables; CAST will provide one supervisor and six intake workers; CCAS will provide one supervisor and five intake workers; and Boost will provide an advocate.

The CYAC will not service the entire city (because of funding issues); however, it will provide services to the centre of the city and some of North York (for TPS this includes Central Field Command divisions and 33 Division and 32 Division). The centre will operate Monday to Friday, with police working 7am–10pm and child welfare working 9am–5pm.

When a call comes into the centre, the supervisor will assign a team of one TPS officer and one child welfare worker to the case. The team will either attend the scene of the call or arrange to have the complainant visit the centre for an investigative interview. (This will depend on the nature of the call). The complainant and non-offending caregiver will meet with the advocate, who will explain the process and introduce the team.

The advocate will meet with the complainant and the family while the interview(s) take place. After the interview is complete, the investigative team will debrief with the advocate, a mental health clinician and a member of the SCAN unit at SickKids (Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children). The team will decide what action if any needs to be taken by each partner. TPS will conduct any criminal investigation and CAST/CCAS will conduct any child welfare investigation. The complainant may be referred to SickKids for an examination or arrangements may be made for them to see their family doctor. The complainant may require some crisis intervention or counselling. Although these partners will not be located at the centre, debriefings and case consultations will always take place for each case. The advocate will maintain contact with the complainant and family throughout the process. The advocate will make referrals required for the family to ensure that appointments are followed up. For more information on the role of the advocate, see "Additional Comments" section below.

Initiative Key Objectives:

The key objectives were:

  • better outcomes for children and creating postive long-term impacts for children and youth who are victims of abuse and their families;
  • early intervention and support to reduce trauma and re-victimization of children; and
  • reduced additional trauma and future social and behavioral dysfuction.

Section Responsible for Implementation:

Divisional Policing Support Unit

Key Contact:

Hagget, Lori

Groups/ Agencies/ Key Partners Involved:

  • community groups
  • other government departments/agencies
  • academic institutes (research and evaluation)

Level of Involvement (consultative - information sharing) and/or cooperative - direct involvement):

All partner agencies are both cooperative and consultative with direct involvement, as well as some information sharing.

Amount of Time Initiative has been in Place:

This initiative has been in place since April 2011.

Reason for Undertaking the Initiative:

This initiative was arrived at after years of multi-agency involvement by the key participants in child abuse investigations, protection, treatment and prevention of children. The initiative was finally born from the idea that a collaborative effort would better serve the CYAC’s client population through a closer working partnership.

Resources Required to Implement this Initiative:

Some set-up costs included a three-year funding grant from Justice Canada, which was received by a community partner, to hire an advocate as well as pay for a consultant company to assist with the governance section (TPS and each partner paid an additional $2500 to keep the consultant on), and $600 for software for two secure laptops. The cost of the first year of the phased-in CYAC will be $1,115,000. Private donations of $500,000 have been secured along with $150,00 a year from Justice Canada. Further funding will be required to move forward.

The costs for the pilot consisted of hiring an advocate ($62,000) which was funded through a grant from Justice Canada. A consultant ($42,000) was also hired to assist the steering committee in creating the governance piece for the centre. Again this was covered by a Justice Canada grant. Miscellaneous funds (approximately $3000) were provided by SCAN (Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect program run at Toronto’s SickKids) and Boost for lunch and coffee for training days. The CYAC is still seeking funding from private funders. The Ministry of Child and Youth Services (MCYS) was approached for funding, but they cannot provide funds for operations; however they may be able to provide some capital funds. TPS has also received a $80,000 grant from Proceeds of Crime, and Boost has applied for a Trillium Grant. The steering committee will continue to apply for different grants.

The CYAC now has three TPS management members—one detective sergeant, and two detectives. These positions come from reassignment. Each partner of the CYAC is responsible for the cost of their own staff. The CYAC covers the cost of the advocate and will cover some administrative positions.

Method of Implementation:

This inititiative is currently in the pilot project phase. Phase 1 of a phased-in approach to start January 2013.

Key Outcomes of the Initiative:

The victim and their family find the support and service referrals by an advocate advantageous, demonstrating significant success for the CYAC. The advocate role allows investigators to focus on the investigation while victim management is underaken by other experts. The close working relationship between partner agencies has created a seamless flow in the investigative process, saving time and resources (only one officer is required for investigations compared to the past—two investigators). With a multidisciplinary approach to a child assault investigation, the enhanced investigation produces better-quality evidence and leads to more pleas of guilt, eliminating trials that can be difficult for child witnesses/victims. Preliminary accounting has identified a reduction in judiciary costs as a result of the efficiencies in process.

Availability of a Communication Strategy:


Key Messages used to Publicize the Initiative:

The TPS has not undertaken any formal promotion of this initiative.

Forms of Evaluation by which the Initiative will be Assessed:

  • quantitative
  • qualitative

Evaluation Completed or Community Feedback Received:


Summary of the Outcomes:

The first-year evaluation is almost complete. A preliminary look at the results indicate that the pilot is a success. The families that have responded to some preliminary surveying have identified heightened satisfaction with the services provided.

Summary of the Performance Measure Data Collected:


Economics of Policing Pillars:

Further Details:

The implementation of the CYAC allows the TPS to investigate the same number of cases with fewer personel. At present, operational procedures require two investigators to conduct child abuse investigations. The pilot has proven that one investigator partnered with a child protection worker can perform those duties more effectively. With the victim management process being overseen by the advocate, the investigator can focus on a more enhanced criminal investigation.

The CYAC forms a new model for child abuse investigations by collaborating with community partners with shared services. History has seen partners working in silos, with victims trying to access a fragmented system. The implementation of the CYAC sees all partners working under one roof providing a one-encounter experience for victims. With all partners at one site, access to information and services is instantaneous, complementing real-time investigations.

Additional Comments or Suggestions:

With current fiscal conditions, intitiatives that partner and share services are becoming more commonplace, creating efficiencies and better service for the public. Without the input of grant funding, programs such as this one are challenged to sustain the resources necessary for the high standards being achieved.

More details on the role of the advocate:

The advocate’s job is to provide advocacy, crisis support and case management services to child/youth victims of sexual and physical abuse and their families who are referred to the CYAC. The advocate assists with crisis intervention and makes referrals for ongoing services for children, youth and their families to appropriate social service organizations. The advocate supports the child/youth and family throughout a child sexual or physical abuse investigation, from intake through disposition. The advocate will provide culturally sensitive and well-coordinated care.

Prior to the investigative interview: The child /youth and their family will be notified that they will meet an advocate upon their arrival at the CYAC and that this person’s role is to provide support, explain what will take place that day and to introduce them to the investigative team.

During the investigative interview: The advocate provides onsite advocacy and support to the child/youth and non-offending caregiver(s), while forensic interviews and/or medical evaluation take place:

  • greet child/youth and family upon arrival and prepare them for the interview and investigation;
  • collect relevant information from non-offending caregivers and others as needed and assist families with completing required forms; and
  • answer questions from non-offending caregiver and provide support and guidance during the investigation.

The advocate participates in the post-interview debrief meeting with child welfare, police, mental health and medical staff:

  • serve as child/youth and families’ liaison and as representative to the multidisciplinary team.

Following the debrief meeting, the advocate will participate in a “wrap-up
meeting” with the child/youth and family to provide information about the next steps in the investigative process and inform them of supportive services available to them:

  • assess child/youth and family needs (including trauma symptoms) and make referrals to appropriate social service organizations located in child/youth and families’ communities; and
  • coordinate with a mental health clinician to assess appropriateness of the four-session crisis intervention service offered by the mental health clinician at the CYAC.

Following the investigative interviews: Within 24 hours of the interview, the advocate makes telephone contact with the child/youth and family to determine how they are coping and to provide assistance as needed:

  • if appropriate, offer crisis intervention service to child/youth and family. If required and if the child/youth and family are agreeable, schedule the first meeting between the mental health clinician and child/youth and family;
  • participate in the first session with the family and mental health clinician;
  • attend ongoing case reviews and follow through on any recommendations of the team that would require the services of the advocate (child witness, immigration, housing, food bank, etc.);
  • consult regularly with mental health clinician regarding children/youth and families in crisis and complex trauma cases;
  • work closely with law enforcement, child protection and the assistant Crown Attorney in order to stay current on the investigation and prosecution of the case and share any concerns or needs of the child/youth and family with the team;
  • maintains regular contact with the child/youth and family in order to keep them updated and answer any questions they have related to the investigative process, and provide feedback to the assigned child protection worker and/or investigating officer;
  • be available to children/youth and their families for general support and information while they await mental health services and/or criminal court; and
  • attend court proceedings with the child/youth and family when requested by the family or team.

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