Almost twice a day a young person in our community is a victim or a witness of crime in our community.
…that you were a young person who had to testify in criminal court because you were either a victim or witness to abuse and/or violence.
…that the accused was someone you know.
…the deep and lasting impact this could have on a young person and their family if they weren’t supported through the process.
…how helpful it would be to have someone walk with you through the process.
The criminal court system is complex, adversarial and is not designed to meet the needs of children or youth. They can be re-victimized by the system, which can exacerbate and/or induce mental health symptoms (Nevada Law Journal, 2016). When young people and their families are supported through the process, they tell us that they are more able to move on from this challenging time in their life, in a healthy way.
The Child Witness Program offers support, education and advocacy for children and youth under the age of 18 in Waterloo Region, Guelph and Wellington County who have been victims or witnesses of crime and are involved in the criminal court process. Going to court can be an anxious and difficult time for children, youth and their families and we walk with them on that journey. We provide a child and youth friendly, trauma informed response for children and youth (under the age of 18) and their families, walking with them, by providing support and advocacy through the court process. We ensure that they are informed, supported and feel included in the process.
Children and youth are generally referred to our program by the police when charges are laid or by the Crown Attorney’s office. Children and youth receive an individualized assessment by their caseworker who has specialized knowledge related to child development, children’s mental health (including trauma) as well as extensive knowledge related to the judicial process. The individualized assessment ensures that each child or youth and their caregiver(s) receive services tailored to meet their unique needs. By providing information, support and ensuring they are included in the process, we can reduce the risk of re-victimization through the criminal court process.
“The Guelph Police Service is proud to continue to partner with the Child Witness Program as they support children and young people who find themselves involved in the judicial process. The Child Witness Centre provides a vital service to help young victims and witnesses to be confident and effective witnesses. It is most reassuring to know that we can rely on trained professionals to work with these young people to help them cope with the fear and anxiety of testifying and minimize the risk of re-victimization.” -Former Guelph Police Service Chief Jeff DeRuyter
Our approach is child and youth centered and our services are uniquely tailored to meet the individual needs of each young person we support, ensuring they are heard, helped and can begin to heal. In 2018-19, we worked with 975 young people and their families
Our services are accessible and provided free of charge. If you know of someone who could benefit from this support, please call us at 519 744-0904.
We invite you to watch this video to learn about a mom and her daughter and their journey through the criminal court process.