Little Warriors receives $5M funding boost from Alberta government

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Little Warriors receives $5M funding boost from Alberta government
Just outside of Edmonton, the Little Warriors Be Brave Ranch offers life-saving resources for kids from across Alberta who have experienced sexual abuse. Now, the Alberta government has provided $5 million over the next three years to offer more stability for the future of the facility. Morgan Black has more. – May 27, 2024

An Alberta organization that focuses on the prevention and treatment of child sexual abuse has received funding from the province.

In an announcement Monday, the Alberta government said it is providing Little Warriors with $5 million over the next three years.

“It’s troubling that any child experiences sexual abuse, but it should not define the rest of their lives,” Minister of Children and Family Services Searle Turton said in a news release.

“I’m so grateful for Little Warriors and their courageous efforts to help Alberta’s young survivors overcome their trauma and regain their self-esteem.”

One-in-three Albertans have experienced sexual abuse while they were under the age of 18, including 44 per cent of girls and 24 per cent of boys, according to the province, citing the Alberta Association of Sexual Assault Services.

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Those who experience sexual abuse can experience a range of outcomes including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and mental illness.

Little Warriors is focused on the awareness, prevention and treatment of child sexual abuse. Its Be Brave Ranch facility east of Edmonton offers a camp-like setting to survivors and offers a range of treatments like group and individual therapy, sensory and animal therapy and physical activity.

“When children and youth first arrive at the Be Brave Ranch, their heads are down, but by the time they leave, they’re standing tall,” Little Warriors CEO Jennifer Martin said.

“The province’s investment will help Little Warriors continue to deliver real results for young survivors.”

Click to play video: 'Learn more about Alberta’s Little Warriors Be Brave Ranch'
Learn more about Alberta’s Little Warriors Be Brave Ranch

Martin described the funding as a game-changer that will have a huge impact on the organization.

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“Independent research shows that for every $1 invested in Little Warriors, our programs save $11 in social services, because children and teens that we serve go on to avoid addiction, criminal justice interactions, health care needs and other services due to their improved outcomes,” she said.

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“We can help more kids get their childhoods back and find their voices again, help them heal from the physical, mental and emotional effects of their sexual abuse trauma.”

Martin went on to say that the majority of the funding will be spent directly at the Be Brave Ranch, which she described as a “natural treasure.”

“The need is massive. We are seeing exponential growth in child sexual abuse. We’re seeing rising acuity since COVID. No one in the space is really sure why just yet, not a huge chance to research that, but rising acuity means what we’re seeing in the cases is exactly that, more acute. It’s just worse,” Martin said.

“Let’s help kids who need it when they need it. We should be considered really no different than a children’s hospital that serves complex specialized cases that need a specialist to care for them.”

Little Warriors also offers a range of educational initiatives, including online programs to teach children and young people about consent, boundaries and self-care. Little Warriors typically spends about $100,000 per year on researching the best supports for those who have experienced sexual abuse.

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“Through our trauma-informed treatment, we are consistently seeing clinical improvements in PTSD, depression, anxiety, and functioning,” said Dr. Wanda Polzin Holman, clinical director at Be Brave Ranch.

Dr. Wanda Polzin Holman, clinical director at the Little Warriors Be Brave Ranch, speaks at a media availability Monday, May 27, 2024. Morgan Black / Global News

Polzin Holman said the provincial government’s funding will allow them to serve more children and caregivers with “evidence-informed treatment that changes life trajectories.”

When they arrive at the Be Brave Ranch, child survivors of sexual abuse are given a handmade quilt with notes of encouragement from the person who made it. Those who have graduated from the ranch also write letters to new clients, an initiative that was created by the youth themselves.

The Be Brave Ranch offers treatment to children and youth from across Canada. Since opening in 2014, the ranch has offered treatment to hundreds of young sexual abuse survivors.

Anyone who suspects someone is experiencing child sexual abuse can report their concerns to Alberta’s Child Intervention provincial intake line at 1-800-638-0715.

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