LFCC is welcoming a second facility dog, National Service Dog (NSD), Yzer, to its Child Witness Program (CWP). Since October 2016, LFCC’s CWP team, which supports children and youth who have been impacted by crime and who are called as witnesses to testify in court, has worked with Merel, Ontario’s first justice facility dog.
Facility dogs are professionally trained and accompany clinician-handlers to enhance services provided to clients. Facility dogs, chosen for their calm demeanor, provide companionship to vulnerable individuals in stressful settings such as trials, forensic interviews and neurodevelopment assessments.
Rachel Braden, Coordinator of the Child Witness Program, and Merel’s primary handler, says she cannot imagine doing her job without the support of Merel. “What can appear to children to be a daunting justice system, Merel takes that and turns it into an empowering space. She connects with these kids in a way that adults just aren’t able to.”
For over 45 years LFCC has provided services to court-involved children, youth and families to promote resolution and resiliency and help their clients to move beyond the justice system. Last year, the Child Witness Program at LFCC supported 250 children and families through the justice system. Merel directly supported over 80 children in courtrooms, but the demand for help throughout Southwestern Ontario is currently unmet. To respond to these demands, LFCC has brought on Yzer to assist across multiple LFCC programs. “We see the positive impact that Merel brings to youth on a daily basis, and we couldn’t be more excited to welcome Yzer, and expand that reach.” said Dr. Dan Ashbourne, Executive Director at LFCC.