UPDATE: CBC Hamilton feature about THRIVE's OASIS Program focuses on mental health for arriving refugees - click here.
As Canadian communities prepare for the arrival of Syrian refugees, our OASIS Program team is busy making sure we are ready to assist as many young people as possible when they arrive in Hamilton with symptoms of trauma. The OASIS Program is Hamilton's specialized treatment program for child and youth trauma among refugees and immigrants, and receives referrals from settlement organizations via direct pathways that help minimize red tape and anxiety for families whose early days here can be overwhelming. Referrals from Wesley Urban Ministries (the reception agency for Government Assisted Refugees) are expected to increase with the arrival of Syrian refugees - some referrals, however, will come only after immediate needs (shelter, primary health, school registration) are addressed. We have increased program capacity to help those newcomers and continue to work with our partners in settlement, health, education, children's services, and government to enhance service levels appropriately. One-time funds from the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services will help boost capacity until March 31, and a significant investment from the Hamilton Community Foundation will support in-school classes to help newcomer students prepare for an unfamiliar learning environment. We welcome community assistance as we ready for what could be a substantial influx of children and youth needing our help well into 2016 and beyond. Private sponsors wanting to make referrals to our OASIS Program may do so by calling Contact Hamilton at 905-570-8888. More information about the OASIS Program can be found on this web site (Programs and Services tab at top) or by scrolling down on this page to OASIS Program Brochure (on right).
Ontario will likely be a major point of entry for incoming refugees over the next few months and we need to ensure the health system is ready, willing and able to assist. Refugees typically face greater settlement and integration challenges than other newcomers. Many refugees have experienced prolonged periods in refugee camps, trauma, violence, and limited access to health care and education.
Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care
Those wanting more in-depth information about the health needs of refugees might want to visit www.kidsnewtocanada.ca (Canadian Paediatric Society).
The Select Committee on Sexual Violence and Harassment presented its Interim Report to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in June, summarizing testimony of those who informed the Committee and providing background context on the hearings held earlier this year.
The Committee is honoured and encouraged by the reception we have received across the province. Witnesses shared deeply personal information with grace and dignity, in an environment that many people would consider intimidating. The resilience of survivors and the dedication of the families and organizations helping them will inform the spirit with which we fulfill the remainder of our mandate. We hope that our work will ultimately help to improve Ontario's response to those who have experienced sexual violence and harassment and to minimize the incidence of these crimes in the future.
There are numerous references to the sexual abuse of children and other sexual crimes against children and youth in the interim report, informed by the work of professionals in the field as well as adult survivors of childhood abuse. Emphasis is placed on "child sexual abuse" perpetrated by other children and youth (e.g. in schools) and the Committee heard that "these behaviours can include inducing fear or making threats to get others to expose themselves, engaging in chronic peeking, inappropriate touching, forcing others to view pornography...any sexual offence, the Committee was told, is traumatic because it represents a violation of emotional and physical boundaries. Witnesses explained that this trauma may progressively worsen as the child matures through later developmental stages, resulting in long-term impacts." The Kingston Police recommended "mandatory intervention programs for adolescent sex offenders" while others noted that "perpetrators are generall suffering from their own traumas, and while they need to be held accountable, we have a responsibility to help them".
The Committee acknowledged the trauma of sexual abuse or violence ("a robber of soul" and "a thief of voice" according to one cited witness).
No one is immune to the impact of trauma. It affects families and communities by disrupting healthy development and adversely affecting relationships, and contributes to mental health issues including substance abuse, domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual violence. Everyone pays the price when a community produces multiple generations of people with untreated trauma.
Among its learnings, the Committee reports that it is "important to have practical and effective systems in place in schools for responding to and preventing inappropriate sexual behaviour and abuse perpetrated by children and youth". The new provincial Health and Physical Education curriculum was highlighted as an effective tool for teaching children and youth about touch, communication, healthy relationships, and how to come forward and report inappropriate behaviour. The Committee also heard about the Internet as a means of sexual exploitation, hypersexualization in advertising and mass media, and recommendations that include the creation of laws to prohibit the use of sexualized images of children and adolescents in the media.
Witnesses across the province spoke of the key role played by numerous organizations providing services and supports to survivors of sexual crimes, and the need for more services and the importance of consistent, stable funding. With a greater focus on prevention, increased public awareness, and an improved legal response, it was noted that "more survivors may come forward who will need access to a robust support system".
A comprehensive prevention and intervention strategy is required; primary prevention for adults, youth, and children is the key to changing attitudes and enhancing safety, and must be prioritized. Historically, the focus of sexual violence and harassment prevention efforts has been on educating victims to protect themselves from violence and aggression. We don't put enough resources into the primary prevention of violence. Intensive primary prevention programming addresses violence and relational aggression by providing children and youth with skills to build healthy, mutually rewarding relationships and reduce victimization.
Schools across Ontario were highlighted as the ideal location to teach children and youth about healthy relationships, touch, communication, respect for others, and how and where to get help. "Children also need to be explicitly told about the risks of familial abuse. 'Stranger danger' can be misleading when so much child sexual abuse takes place at the hands of individuals known to the victims".
It is not enough to teach children and youth about consent and respect for others; adults must also be educated to respect children.
A number of presenters told the Committee that successful education and prevention is best achieved when it involves partnerships and participation from all stakeholders, including parents/guardians, teachers, employers, co-workers, service providers, and people who are most vulnerable to abuse. As one witness put it, "we need a whole community approach to prevention and intervention; sexual violence and harassment is not an individual problem".
The interim report can be viewed here: Interim Report. The Committee is mandated to release its final report by December 10, 2015.
Childhood trauma isn’t something you just get over as you grow up. Pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris explains that the repeated stress of abuse, neglect and parents struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues has real, tangible effects on the development of the brain. This unfolds across a lifetime, to the point where those who’ve experienced high levels of trauma are at triple the risk for heart disease and lung cancer. An impassioned plea for pediatric medicine to confront the prevention and treatment of trauma, head-on.
We encourage professionals, parents, and community members to view this informative and insightful presentation in order to better understand childhood trauma, its consequences, and the need for more prevention and education efforts as well as effective treatment responses - click here for TedTalk by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris (running time 15:58).
Thrive Child and Youth Trauma Services
40th Annual General Meeting
Monday, September 28, 2015 4:30 - 5:30 pm
The Spice Factory, 121 Hughson St. North, Hamilton
All are welcome. Please RSVP by Sept. 23rd to (905) 523-1020 ext. 210.
Following a short business meeting, we will hear from guest speaker Louise Murray-Leung, Hamilton Chapter, Parents for Children's Mental Health, and present awards to the newest inductees into our Leaders for Kids circle. Light refreshments will be served.
Just in time for a 1pm tee time, the rain stopped and the sun came out at Heron Point Golf Links for another wonderful Lanhack Charity Golf Classic on August 20th. Hosted annually by Lanhack Consultants, a local engineering firm, the tournament raises funds for THRIVE Child and Youth Trauma Services and Help A Child Smile. Dave Hacking (pictured, with THRIVE Executive Director Karen Smith) and Carlos Lancia believe in these causes and invite their business associates to join them each year to support the work of these organizations. This year, more than $4,700 was raised through competition holes and auction purchases.Thank you to everyone at Lanhack, to all the golfers who participated, and to the donors and volunteers who made the day possible.
On behalf of the youngsters we serve, we are very grateful.