New Westminster is taking steps to ensure kids are protected from abuse when they’re in using city services or spaces.
Council has approved a new child protection policy and procedures, which respond to a November 2018 motion directing staff to implement the Commit to Kids initiative.
“The Commit to Kids program is developed by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, a national non-profit organization dedicated to the personal safety of children, to help organizations create safe environments for children,” said a staff report. “It provides strategies, policies and a step-by-step plan for reducing the risk of child exploitation. The program encourages organizations to take an active, participatory role in protecting children in their care.”
In May 2019, about 200 city employees received training as part of the Commit to Kids program, with remaining employees set to complete the required training online in the coming months. A leadership team, which includes senior staff from the parks and recreation, library and cultural services departments, developed and/or updated several city policies in order to create a “consolidated and encompassing approach” to child protection in public facilities and spaces.
Coun. Jaimie McEvoy said he’s proud of the work being done by the city to address children’s safety, and he believes it’s an example of New Westminster being a leader on the issue.
“When it came to council, council actually said, ‘Can we also take out to the broader community?’ So working with sports groups and things like that,” he said. “We are doing our best working with the lead agency in Canada to try and make sure we have the safest programs and facilities for children, to prevent any possible incidents of abuse.”
Along with taking actions of its own, the city’s parks and recreation department will also be liaising with community organizations, including arts and minor sports groups, to convey the program benefits and to seek their participation by adopting the Commit to Kids program and having their staff or volunteers complete the online training program.
“At this time we are not making it a requirement, but we are strongly encouraging participation,” said Steve Kellock, the city’s senior manager of recreation services and facilities. “There is another avenue that, in particular, the sports groups are receiving the same message from. And that’s through some of the national sports organizations who are also in support of this initiative.”