Oak Centre received a grant from the Victims Funds to put on an awareness campaign to draw attention to the incidences of child abuse / sexual assault in our region and let people know about the services that our agency provides. We have increased Instagram & Facebook ads directing people to learn more about Oak Centre, lightpost banners went up on Main street in downtown Vernon and radio ads are playing on Pure Country radio. The professionals at Oak Centre work closely with community partners to increase safety and provide services to children, youth and their families that are victims and Survivors of Crime

Pick up your Cirque Surprise Box at Healthy Spot and spoil your fur baby while helping support Archway Society’s accredited facility dog. The box is packed with amazing goodies for your special pup and you might even be the lucky winner of the Cirque plush and bonus gift card. Huge thanks to Healthy Spot Pet Nutrition & Supply for doing this fundraiser and sponsoring Cirque.

We are immensely thankful for this generous contribution that will go to help fund our Family Therapy Program. With your generous funding children and youth and their families who have experiences trauma will be able to heal individually and as a family unit. The program meets children and families where they are at on their healing journey and recognizes that each person has unique needs. First West Foundation has been helping our communities thrive since 1996 and we recognize how their contributions have made our community a better place.

It is hard to believe it’s already been a year with Cirque as part of the Archway Society and Oak Centre team. Cirque has blossomed into her role as she accompanies children and youth in interviews, meetings and court appearances. The impact of having her on the team is truly amazing. Taylor, a community based victims service worker at the court house puts it like this, “I was able to observe Cirque with a young witness. The young girl had a chance to take a break from testifying and while on break she played tug
of war with Cirque. It was pretty amazing to see a child smiling and enjoying herself while experiencing what could very well be one of the most difficult days of her life. I felt proud and amazed that we had gained such a valuable member to our team.” Big thanks to Cirque’s handler mamas Brooke and Daphne and her sponsor Healthy Spot Pet Nutrition & Supply for bringing her through the first year, with many more to come! Now let the dog spoiling begin!

We send our thanks to Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth for awarding us this grant of $90,000. These funds are what makes it possible for the professionals at Oak Centre CYAC to serve children, youth and their families to increase safety and live free from abuse or violence. Thank you for valuing the great work that is done to advocate for children and youth in the North Okanagan.

https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/crime-prevention/community-crime-prevention/grants

Cst. Ashely Fast, RCMP Speical Victims Unit, with Cirque, PADS Accredited Facility Dog at Oak Centre

When Cst. Ashley Fast with the RCMP Special Victims Unit comes to the Oak Centre she is in plain clothing, dressed professionally and approachable, she comes to the Child and Youth Advocacy Centre to interview children who are victims or witness’ in regards to physical or sexual abuse.  Ashley is motivated by the true innocents she sees in kids, “It’s tough sometimes but the work is rewarding because I want to protect kids who are hurt and help them have a voice.” She adds “Kids are genuinely innocent victims.” Ashley has been with the RCMP for over 9 years and the last 2 years she has served as a liaison between RCMP and Oak Centre. Ashley says the Oak Centre makes a huge difference in the child interview experience, it’s a safe place for children and youth where they can meet with the officer and advocates.  And the interview happens in a non-threatening environment by an officer in plain clothing and in a way that does not re-victimize the child. There is also a big difference for families and caregivers that accompany the children, Ashley points out that at the detachment they would have to sit alone and would not have the support of the advocates. At Oak Centre the space is available for caregivers to wait in comfort, have other children with them and an advocate is there to offer support. Ashley appreciates the Oak Centre for it’s warm and welcoming staff and atmosphere, she says there are just so many great benefits and she hopes the Oak Centre and other CYAC’s will be used by more professionals in her sector. The Oak Centre has really benefited from Ashley’s partnership with the centre, she is instrumental in providing a team approach in serving families. Oak Centre staff send out a huge thanks to her for all she does.

The interview room at the Oak Centre is looking great with it’s new coat of Buxton Blue paint. The room had originally been painted grey but with a desire to brighten the room a repainting of blue was chosen and we think you’ll agree it is looking amazing.

From the onset, decisions on colour and design at Oak Child and Youth Advocacy Centre were thoughtful and intentional  in order to create a comfortable environment that would give children and families the best possible  space to go through the interview process and get ongoing support. Choosing the right colours and lighting was an important part of preparing it to be a calm and comforting environment.

It is very interesting how colour intersects with emotions, even at times affecting us physically. Some colours feel cold, harsh, and may cause anxiety and others boost
energy and create inspired feelings. For example, orange encourages creativity and can bring a joyful feeling, red can activate energy and can cause a spike in blood pressure and anxiety.  Knowing how colour impacts children and families is why at Oak Centre we chose colours that would reduce anxiety  and stress, and colours that would  eliminate  external distractions as much as possible. We mainly use blue tones because blue slows the heart rate and is tranquil. Blue provides a peaceful and calming energy and has tremendous stress management qualities. Grey was also chosen as a complimentary colour to blue. Grey is a soothing colour with a cooling presence and it also contributes to the space as a neutral color.

It is a fascinating to thing how something as seemingly minor as paint colour could impact the important work with children and families at Oak Centre.

We also want to add a huge thank you to the volunteers that helped with the project.

Healthy Spot supplies all Cirque’s necessities like food, treats and toys. They spoil her with the best in nutrition and stimulating activities for her play time. Healthy Spot also raises funds to cover Cirque’s other related costs. One successful fundraiser that Healthy Spot ran in the fall was the Cirque Surprise Box. It had lots of Cirque’s favorite treats and other surprises that buyers and their fur buddies could really enjoy.  The fundraiser was so successful it was a quick sell out and raised over $2000. “Way to go Healthy Spot!” They plan to run this kind of fundraiser again in 2021, so if you missed it last time keep an eye out for the next opportunity. Andrea says it had always been on her mind and heart to do something amazing like support the work of a support or service dog. So when she heard that Archway Society for Domestic Peace and Oak Child and Youth Advocacy Centre were getting an Accredited Facility Dog she jumped at the opportunity to be Cirque’s sponsor. Andrea says it’s just the right fit for her business and customers love it. Having an Accredited Facility Dog is truly a team effort and without the support of a business like Healthy Spot Pet Nutrition and Supply, we could not offer this great service and comfort to children and youth at Oak Centre. We could not agree more with Andrea’s words – “It’s a perfect fit.”

As an AFD Cirque’s role is to maintain a calm presence and help reduce anxiety for children and youth as they are interviewed, attend court or meet with advocates. The calming affect of Cirque on those that engage with her is incredible. For example, a young child who would not speak to any of the adults in the room, hiding their head in their caregiver’s arm, was handed the leash . The child immediately sat up and started to speak excitedly. From that point on the professionals were able to open up a dialogue with the child and start to build trust. This type of scenario has become a regular occurrence as Cirque settles into her work at the centre.

Cirque was trained and placed with Oak Child and Youth Advocacy Centre and Archway Society for Domestic Peace by the talented team at PADS (Pacific Assistance Dogs Society). We had discussed an AFD from the very development of Oak Centre at the urging of one of the frontline child protection social workers. Over the years we had visits from AFDs in training and met with other handlers who had AFDs in their centre and saw the benefit of a placement of a facility dog within a child and youth advocacy centre. In 2019 we connected with a regional trainer and from there we were put in touch with the trainers at PADS in Burnaby. We worked with them to identify handlers in our agency and to go through the application process. It was very important that the dog placed with us had the right skills to work with our vulnerable clients and be able to adapt to different work settings – during meetings with young clients and professionals, in police interviews  and with children and in courtrooms.

A match was found for us and we started team training in May 2020 with Cirque. Our team graduated in September after written exams for the humans and a practical skills test for the humans and Cirque. A virtual graduation celebration was held in December. Cirque is a remarkable dog and all who meet her are amazed by her skills and calm demeanor.  We look forward to having Cirque as part of the team for many years to come.