Friday, December 15, 2017

In September of 2017, SACE started an exciting new project. In partnership with John D. Bracco Junior High School and funded in part by the Edmonton Public Teachers Charity Trust Fund, the Mobile Counsellor Program was created.

Once a week, SACE Child and Youth Counsellor Morgan Bissegger travels to John D. Bracco Junior High School to meet individually with students who have previously disclosed experiencing sexual abuse. The program began as a pilot project at the school led by Principal Jillian Marino, who saw a great need for this kind of support: the school had been receiving an average of two disclosures per week. Due to barriers to accessing counselling at SACE offices, including stigma, the need to book during school hours, and transportation, it was recognized that there were many students who were effectively prevented from accessing these essential support services.

Without support, childhood sexual abuse can lead to mental and physical health issues both immediately and into adulthood. This doesn't have to be the case, however: studies show that when young people receive a supportive response to their disclosure and get the help they need to heal, most go on to lead healthy and productive lives.

Having a counsellor from SACE in the school every week means that students who have experienced sexual abuse can receive the support they need without the barrier of travelling to SACE. In addition to direct support from Bissegger, advocacy for students and education for staff around the best way to support each unique youth increases connection to the school and contributes to an overall increase in emotional safety for students when at school.

Marino is not alone in recognizing the need for specialized support. Nine additional schools have indicated that they would like to see this program in their schools. This partnership with John D. Bracco Junior High School is a first step in reducing barriers to Edmonton students accessing essential support and it would not be possible without the generous financial support of Edmonton Public Teachers Charity Trust Fund. We can't wait to see this program grow!