All across Ontario, individuals and communities share the important role and responsibility of supporting children and youth and alerting a local Children’s Aid Society if a child is vulnerable or experiencing abuse or neglect. In fact, it is our legal duty. Here’s why.
The Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017 (CYFSA) mandates and describes who needs to and when to report to a Children’s Aid Society. In summary, it states that the public, including officials and professionals working with children (such as doctors, educators, child and youth workers, etc.), must promptly report when a child is reasonably believed to be in need or is in need of protection. A great brochure that sums up our responsibilities under the CYFSA is available on the Government of Ontario website.
Why We Dress Purple
To show that you’re here to help kids and families! Every year in October, we put on our best purple getups and join thousands of other Ontarians engaged in protecting kids to raise awareness about what we must do as adults and professionals to keep them safe and prevent abuse and how we can support them and their families when they’ve experienced abuse. The Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies puts this initiative together—hosting campaign information and resources on their website for anyone that wants to get involved.
Here’s some stats and facts provided from our Child Witness Project and Beacon House Child & Youth Advocacy Centre teams that states the case in Middlesex-London and why today matters.
Children and youth referred to Child Witness Project (CWP) in 2022-2023 fiscal year.
Youth have come into Beacon House Child & Youth Advocacy Centre between Feb to Oct 2023 to disclose allegations of sexual assault.
74 new clients of CWP’s were victims of sexual assault.
65 new clients of CWP’s were victims of physical assault.
4 new clients of CWP’s were victims of interpersonal violence.
7 new clients of CWP’s were victims of human trafficking.
23 new clients of CWP’s were victims of what we deem other kinds of crime (neglect, uttering threats, robbery).
28 new clients of CWP’s were witnesses to crime.
Sexual assault cases perpetrated by a family member or a domestic partner are among the highest percentage of referrals we see.
In her role of Lead Clinician in the Child Witness Project, Frances Nuvoloni has worked with a diverse demographic of children and says that it’s not just one type or class of family that is vulnerable, but all types in all communities. Here’s why she’s wearing purple today.
“I wear purple to show that it is not just other communities who are impacted by violence against children, but our own. It is easy for people to not think this is happening in their backyard. It can happen to any child or youth; child abuse transcends socio-economic statues, ethnicity, and culture. It is an unfortunate universal experience that any child could face if they are not protected.
I wear purple as a sign of awareness. We need to be aware of what is happening in our community so we can be mindful of the signs and how to help.
I wear purple because one day I want to live in a world where every young person’s right to safety and protection is respected.”
Ellen Lonsdale, Child Advocate in the Beacon House Child & Youth Advocacy Centre, is wearing purple today too, and says that she’s taking today to look back at the time she’s spent with kids and their families in her own work.
“I wear purple on October 27th to help bring awareness within the community about society’s responsibility to uphold and maintain the inherent worth and dignities of children, youth, and their families. Dress Purple Day is a time to reflect upon my engagements and to discover areas of growth on how to best support and serve children, youth and their families who are experiencing vulnerabilities within society. Every child has the right to feel safe and supported when it comes to children’s and youth’s well-being. It is not a choice of giving children rights, children are born with rights, but it is a choice to amplify children’s rights, voices, and choices.”
What Can We Do Today?
The steps for any individual or professional is to become an advocate for children; get educated on the challenges that children and families face, listen to them, be proactive, replace judgement with empathy, be part of and nurture communities that care, and take a stance against child abuse.
“I think it begins with re-framing how children and youth are viewed within society. For so long children and youth have been viewed into becoming people of society instead of being viewed as the inherent beings that children and youth are,” said Ellen Lonsdale.
“It is also important to be non-judgemental and be an active listener. It is very hard, again no matter the age, for someone to come forward to tell you what has happened to them. Listen with an open mind and no judgment,” said Frances Nuvoloni.
Hundreds of supports exist for children, youth, and families too for if, or for when, they need support that you can forward from the OACAS website.
Most importantly, if you believe a child is at-risk of being abused or has been abused, immediately call your local Children’s Aid Society. In London & Middlesex, you can reach out by phone (519) 455-9000 or get more information online.