'It shouldn’t be a luxury': Child Witness Centre struggles to keep up with rising demand
A child support centre in Waterloo region is struggling to keep up with rising demand.
Child Witness Centre executive director Kim Rodrigues said this is the first time in the centre’s 40-year history it’s had to move to a waitlist format.
The centre advocates and provides support for young victims and witnesses impacted by crime.
Currently there are more than 130 children waiting for services. Rodrigues said that number is expected to grow to close to 400 by March.
“The concern is huge,” said Rodrigues. “When children don’t get that critical support at the time that they need it, we do know and research does show, children and youth do have a poor outcome. They are more likely to experience things later in life, such as mental health issues, they’re more likely to struggle with addiction issues.”
According to Rodrigues, the centre gets more than 20 referrals a week of children experiencing physical or sexual abuse or who have been exposed to domestic violence.
Rodrigues said it helps children and youth prepare for court by going through evidence and helping them prepare for victim impact statements.
“The young people in our community deserve the support. It shouldn’t be a luxury when a child has been hurt or harmed to be able to get the supports that they desperately need,” she said.
WHAT'S BEHIND THE GROWING DEMAND?
Rodrigues said the COVID-19 pandemic has played a role in the significant increase in demand for services.
“Unfortunately, the impact of those being home and not having access to schools and community, the impact of that has been big,” she said. “We see that impact unfortunately has resulted in children and youth being harmed.”
She also noted since the pandemic, funding for the centre has decreased, leading to reduced staff.
Twenty per cent of the centre is funded by the government, the other 80 per cent is from community donations and fundraisers.
“We know that our corporate partners and community members may not have the resources they previously did to be able to support our good work.”
Rodrigues said she’s hoping for some local “heroes” to help support the Child Witness Centre, so every child who needs help can get it in a timely manner.