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SeaStar Child and Youth Advocacy Centre

SeaStar Child and Youth Advocacy Centre

The SeaStar Child and Youth Advocacy Centre (CYAC) is currently in development. A collaborative project between the IWK Health Centre, government, and community partners, the envisioned SeaStar CYAC will deliver a full range of coordinated services for children and youth who have experienced abuse, all in one comfortable, child- and youth-friendly setting.

As a first step, a small-scale CYAC Program began in 2012 at the IWK’s Child Protection Team.

The need for a centre like this is clear – despite its small scale, over 200 children and youth visit the CYAC Program at the IWK every year. This represents only a fraction of the eligible cases in HRM alone.

There are now over 20 CYACs in operations or development across Canada. The SeaStar CYAC will be the first centre of its kind in Atlantic Canada.
We know that child abuse has an impact not only in childhood, but all across the lifespan. The way that we as a community respond when a child is brave enough to disclose abuse has a major impact on that child and family, today and for generations to come.

What is a Child and Youth Advocacy Centre (CYAC)?

When a child or youth discloses that they’ve been abused, a number of different professionals might be involved in responding. The client and family may meet with social workers, police officers, doctors, nurses, lawyers, therapists, and others, and at each step may be asked to repeat information – information which can feel very personal, private, and painful, and can be difficult for a child to tell.

The client and family may need to make trips to different offices, absorb new information, and understand a new and unfamiliar legal process. It may not always be clear what is happening or what to expect next. This process in itself can be re-traumatizing.

This is where we help.

A Child and Youth Advocacy Centre is a welcoming, child- and youth-friendly setting, where young clients can navigate the same steps described above, but in one coordinated, streamlined process. Professionals work together to provide a coordinated approach to forensic interview, medical exam, mental health services, court support and preparation, and personalized follow up, all in one familiar, comfortable location.

This approach makes the experience better for clients, and provides support every step of the way. By working together, the professionals involved have access to more complete information and can work more efficiently, resulting in stronger cases and better outcomes.

Evidence from other CYACs has shown:

  • Clients receive better support, which is more consistent
  • Clients have easier access to medical care, when needed
  • Clients have easier access to mental health and other services
  • Clients and families are more satisfied
  •  The agencies and organizations involved work better together, with more coordination and collaboration
  • Work is done more efficiently, saving the system money with every investigation



The IWK is pleased to work together with representatives from the following organizations on the CYAC project:

  • Department of Community Services
  • Mi’kmaq Family and Children’s Services
  • Department of Justice, Victim Services
  • Department of Health and Wellness
  • Halifax Regional Police
  • RCMP
  • Nova Scotia Chiefs of Police Association
  • Cape Breton Regional Police
  • Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service
  • Transition House Association of Nova Scotia

The IWK gratefully acknowledges the generous support for this project provided, in part, by Department of Justice Canada, and Medavie Health Foundation.

How was the name “SeaStar” chosen?

“Sea Star” is another name for starfish. The name reflects our Maritime location, but also captures the meaning of the “Starfish Story”:

While walking along a beach, an elderly gentleman saw someone in the distance leaning down, picking things up and throwing them into the ocean.
As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, picking up starfish one by one and tossing each one gently back into the water.
He came closer and called out, "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?"
The young man paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean."
The old man smiled, and said, "I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?"
To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die."
Upon hearing this, the elderly observer commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!"
The young man listened politely. Then he bent down, picked up another starfish, threw it back into the ocean past the breaking waves and said,
"It made a difference for that one."



April 26, 2012
Chronicle Herald: Federal cash ‘kick-starts’ IWK program for victims of crime

April 2014
National Victims of Crime Awareness Week: CYAC Demonstration Program at the IWK Health Centre Photo Essay

October 14, 2014
Chronicle Herald: Ex-NHLer Sheldon Kennedy fights youth sex abuse

October 14, 2014
Global News: The SeaStar Child and Youth Advocacy Centre funding

October 14, 2014
Department of Justice Canada: Federal Investment Enables Halifax Child and Youth Advocacy Centre to Expand Services for Young Victims and Their Families

December 18, 2014
Cape Breton Post: Advocate says progress being made in meeting needs of abused youth

January 19, 2016
CTV Atlantic Morning: Youth and Social Justice Award Recipients



(902) 470-2715

(902) 470-8079

Child and Youth Advocates
(902) 470-7357

Project Coordinator
(902) 470-7365

Like us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/SeaStarCYAC
Follow us on Twitter: @SeaStarCYAC

If you are concerned that a child is being abused or neglected, contact the child welfare agency in the area where the child lives. To find the child welfare agency in your area, please contact the agency or district office of the Department of Community Services (http://gov.ns.ca/coms/department/contact/index.html) nearest you for more information.

After regular business hours call 1-866-922-2434 if you believe a child is in immediate danger.

In Nova Scotia, everyone has the duty to immediately report to a child welfare agency even a suspicion that a child under 16 may be in need of protective services. Reports may be made anonymously. Once a report is made, Child Welfare social workers assess the information provided to determine an appropriate response.