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Project expansion addresses domestic violence

Program in response to scathing report on murdered children

A provincial health and safety initiative for children and women, which began as a pilot project in two BC communities, is expanding to include Powell River.

The program is part of the government’s response to the representative for children and youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond’s scathing report, Honouring Kaitlynne, Max and Cordon: Make Their Voices Heard Now. The report detailed how the Schoenborn children “fell through the cracks,” and how their deaths in 2008, at the hand of their father Allan Schoenborn, could have been prevented.

The report, released in March 2012, detailed how family members, who lived in Merritt BC, came into contact with 14 different professionals during the week prior to their deaths. During that period Schoenborn was arrested three times, yet nothing was done to stem repeated incidents of domestic violence. Schoenborn admitted to killing his three children, but was found not criminally responsible for their deaths and remains in a psychiatric hospital.

Safe Relationships, Safe Children project, which launched as a community pilot last fall in Richmond and Vernon, helps front-line staff in a variety of health and community settings better, and consistently, manage situations where mental illness, substance abuse and domestic violence may put children’s safety at risk.

“We know that prevention and early intervention are critical to meeting the needs of vulnerable children and families,” said Stephanie Cadieux, minister of children and family development (MCFD), in a media release. “By improving the training and information sharing processes with the health care and child-serving systems, staff will be better able to work proactively to protect children and help families get timely services and supports.”

According to a joint media release from MCFD and ministry of health, the project puts more effective procedures in place, ensuring that vital information is shared and service providers are trained to determine risk and address safety needs—not only of parents in treatment, but also of their children, partners and other family members. This is done by identifying, as early as possible, parents with serious untreated mental illness, problematic substance abuse or risk of domestic violence whenever they come into contact with health care or MCFD services.

Powell River is one of 19 communities in BC that has been included in the next phase of unrolling the program, an initiative which will eventually become province-wide. A community tool kit and guide to enhance practices was developed based on the experiences from the pilot communities. The kit includes new screening tools, risk assessments, information sharing and referral processes.

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