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Kristen French Child Advocacy Centre Niagara

Our Story

Our Mission is to service children and families in the Niagara Region who have been impacted by child abuse.

Abuse is a difficult subject for any young person to talk about. Fortunately, the caring professionals at the Kristen French CACN are committed to making the life of a child or youth who has experienced abuse a little bit easier.

The Kristen French CACN provides a safe place to help, heal, end child abuse for Niagara’s children and youth who have experienced alleged physical abuse, sexual abuse, become the targets of internet luring, or were the unwilling witness of violence.

The environment is child-focused and private, providing a safe and non-threatening place for children and youth to disclose their experience of abuse to specially trained teams from the Niagara Regional Police Service and Family and Children’s Services Niagara who respectively, investigate to determine criminal charges and protection needs. Mental health professionals from Family Counselling Centre Niagara provide much needed follow-up counselling support at no cost and without a wait list.

Opened on September 16th, 2008 the Kristen French CACN is a registered charitable organization that serves Niagara’s 12 municipalities helping children and families cope with the life altering impacts of child abuse.

Before the Niagara region had the Kristen French CACN, children and youth were subjected to multiple interviews at multiple locations.

The existence of the Kristen French CACN minimizes the number of times children must tell their story, reducing the trauma of disclosure and ensuring a coordinated, cost-effective delivery of service to Niagara’s children, youth and their supportive family members.

Video Credits: Niagara Regional Police Service Deputy Chief Brett Flynn, Jon Ohlman Video Producer, and his team the Ontario Police Video Training Alliance.

“I knew how tough it was for kids to report what had happened to them. Before the Kristen French CACN, the interviews had to take place at police stations or other offices where children could find this to be uncomfortable or intimidating. Without wanting to, we were re-victimizing the child.

Frank Parkhouse, Retired Niagara Regional Deputy Chief of Police and Kristen French CACN Board of Director

Who is Kristen

Kristen French School PhotoOn April 16th, 1992 at the tender age of 15, Kristen French was forcibly abducted in St. Catharines by Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo under the pretence of needing directions. She was held in captivity for three days. Kristen was subsequently murdered on April 19, 1992 and her body was found on April 30, 1992. A videotape made by Bernardo of Kristen’s abduction and torture was used in evidence against him at his trial.

This murder sparked a debate in our country about the need for investigative collaboration and to reduce the potential trauma to victims and their families caused by the investigation and justice process.

Abducted only a few blocks from where the Centre now stands, Kristen’s horrific experience provides a stark reminder of the extreme trauma and loss that can be caused by violence and abuse towards children and young people.

As a community-driven initiative, Doug and Donna French were instrumental in helping to establish a centre in Niagara that now houses an improved approach to child abuse investigations.

Renaming of the Child Advocacy Centre Niagara

The renaming of the Child Advocacy Centre Niagara in 2014 to the Kristen French Child Advocacy Centre Niagara pays tribute to the memory of Kristen, whose story represents one of the most horrendous forms of abuse against a young person our community has ever seen. 

“Doug and I, along with our family, would like to say a heartfelt ‘Thank you’ to the Board of Directors of the Child Advocacy Centre Niagara and especially our dear friend, Frank Parkhouse, for this wonderful tribute to our daughter’s memory. When we learned of the efforts being made to establish the Child Advocacy Centre Niagara, we felt it was a big step towards making the healing process easier for the children involved and we wanted to help make it happen. There is nothing more beautiful than a happy, healthy child and nothing more abhorrent than the abuse of a child. We believe the Advocacy Centre is a major step forward in helping abused children feel safe, whole and happy again.” – Donna French on the renaming of the Centre

CACN and its partner organizations (Niagara Regional Police Services, Family and Children’s Services Niagara and Family Counselling Centre Niagara) had the following to say about the renaming:

“Adding Kristen’s name to the Child Advocacy Centre Niagara represents our region’s collective commitment to address the nature and variety of child abuse that exists, even to the unthinkable ends that meet the lives of some of our children and youth. By honoring Kristen we also honor the many untold victim stories that the centre’s investigators hear every day in our efforts to prevent such extreme and tragic outcomes from happening with our most vulnerable citizens.” – Janet Handy, Past Executive Director, Kristen French CACN

“Child abuse can cast a shadow over the length of a lifetime for most victims. I believe that the Child Advocacy Centre here in Niagara provides a safe environment for victims of physical and sexual abuse to tell what happened to them” commented Randy Bleich, Retired Detective Staff Sergeant of the Special Victims Unit from the Niagara Regional Police. “We have an excellent team of community partners here in Niagara to assist all victims of child abuse and their families. I cannot imagine a more fitting name to reflect the work of CACN than to honour Kristen and the contributions the French family made in establishing the Centre.”

“Renaming the centre honours Kristen and the French family, and reminds us as a community of the tragic loss and trauma caused by violence and abuse toward children. The community of Niagara is richer for having this centre to help to lessen the trauma associated with investigations and to help children and families begin their recovery journey.” – Chris Steven, Past Executive Director, Family and Children’s Services Niagara

“Working collaboratively with service partners, survivors and their families is a key strength of the Child Advocacy Centre, enhancing the potential for resolution and healing.  The renaming of the Centre will honour the legacy of courage demonstrated by the French family and those who will seek the services of the Child Advocacy Centre in the future.” – John McLachlan, Supervisor, Family Counselling Centre Niagara

“It was evident during the trial of Paul Bernardo that Kristen defied him throughout her physical & sexual abuse until her life was taken.  Her strength and courage was demonstrated then, as it is now by her parents, Doug & Donna French, who continue to speak openly about their life with Kristen both before and after her death. Doug & Donna have travelled throughout Ontario into Alberta, Manitoba and on one occasion to Germany to share their story. Kristen has been honoured in a number of ways here in Niagara. The renaming of the Centre will inspire us in a greater way to encourage those who are being physically and sexually abused to come forward, seek help and identify those predators who prey on our children.”– NRPS Deputy Chief Frank Parkhouse (Rtd.)

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