Alberta ‘leading the way’ in fight against child abuse, Sheldon Kennedy tells international experts

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Child abuse professionals look for solutions at Calgary conference
WATCH ABOVE: About 1,200 delegates from 42 countries are in Calgary to discuss a massive problem that has no borders - child abuse and neglect – Aug 29, 2016

It’s a big conference for a big problem that has no borders.

The United Nations estimates hundreds of millions of children are subjected to various forms of abuse, violence and neglect, including 223 million who are abused sexually.

The Congress of the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (ISPCAN) is taking place in Calgary this week. About 1,200 delegates from 42 countries are attending – to share research, potential solutions and best practices.

Sheldon Kennedy, who as a young hockey player was abused by his coach, was a keynote speaker at the conference Monday morning.

He said the integrated model of care developed in Alberta is unique and one other nations can learn from.

“We don’t know of any other country that has that and has that permission, and so I think that we are leading the way,” said Kennedy after delivering a keynote speech.

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“We’ve been told that we’re leading practice, as far as true integrated practice. There’s organizations that work multi-disciplinary and so forth, but the way we look at it is true integrated practice which allows for information sharing,” he added.

The Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre at the University of Calgary brings together health care professionals, including doctors and psychologists, with police investigators and prosecutors working together under one roof.

Alberta ‘leading the way’ in fight against child abuse, Sheldon Kennedy tells international experts - image

Karym Leito, a youth delegate from the Netherlands, said his country also integrates services for children, but not to the same as extent as what’s being done in Calgary.

“I think it’s a bit more integrated here…it’s all under one roof. I think that’s a big difference that we still can learn back in the Netherlands,” Leito said.

But he said there’s still much to learn about protecting children. One area for improvement is being more sensitive to cultural differences.

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“Our ears are going to be open on the cultural aspect, if we look at Calgary it’s a very diverse city, and how do we learn the different cultures?” Kennedy said.

“It’s all about trying to get better all the time, so I think learning is just part of the work that what we do.”

One group eager to help is Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA).

“What we do as an organization here, it’s got to be good enough for our chapters clear across the world,” said William Hebert, president of the local BACA chapter.

The conference began on Sunday and wraps up on Wednesday.

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