Children Who Witness Abuse Program

The Children Who Witness Abuse Program

This program provides support counselling for children and youth aged 4-18 who have been exposed to or who have experienced domestic violence and/or serious family conflict.

We apply specialized knowledge of working with children and use a variety of client-centered approaches.

CWWA Program Goals:

  • To validate children and youth’s experiences.
  • To break the cycle of violence and educate children and youth about violence and various types of abuse.
  • To help children develop healthy coping skills, conflict resolution skills, problem solving skills, communication skills, and self-esteem.
  • To help children and youth understand feelings and find healthy ways to express them.
  • To create personal safety plans.
  • To develop support networks.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How much does this program cost?

  • This is a free program.

How can I find out more about the CWWA program or register my child or youth in the program?

  • Contact NSDP by phone at 250-847-9000, or toll free at 1-877-633-9933, by email at admin@domesticpeace.ca or in person at 3772 1st Avenue, Smithers, British Columbia.
  • We are open Monday to Friday 8:30 to 4:30.

Will my child see a counsellor right away? 

  • For very short term emergency counselling children and youth may be seen right away. Generally children and youth will be placed on a waitlist and contacted to be advised when a counsellor will be available.

What is the next step once a counsellor is available to see my child?

  • Parents / caregivers will be asked to attend an intake session with the counsellor. During an intake session the CWWA counsellor and the parent /caregiver will exchange information that will assist in setting goals for the child or youth during counselling.

What will a counselling session look like?

  • Counselling sessions are typically 40 minutes in length, plus time afterward for a snack. (Please advise the counsellor if your child has any dietary restrictions or allergies.) Counsellors work with children around the program goals as well as personal goals determined by the parent/caregiver and the child or youth. Counsellors will use a variety of client centered approaches which may involve art and play-based activities. Counsellors strive to create a safe, supportive environment that will allow children and youth to explore their experiences and become aware of how these experiences influence their relationships.

Where will CWWA counselling take place?

  • We have two well equipped activity rooms where we hold counselling sessions.   For older children and youth, sessions may take place in an office setting.

How long will my child or youth attend counselling?

  • The CWWA program typically sees children or youth for one to twenty sessions, usually once per week, or bi-weekly.  Their progress in and outside of counselling will be evaluated and additional sessions may be planned if the counsellor and parent/caregiver feel additional counselling would be beneficial.

Is counselling one-to-one, group, or something else?

  • CWWA counselling is most often one to one, but sessions may include siblings and/or parents as appropriate. We may offer group couselling if we have a number of children with similar goals and similar ages. 

Can all of the children in a family group attend counselling?

  • Yes if they are aged 4-18 and have experienced domestic violence and/or serious family conflict.  Siblings may attend individually on alternate weeks or they may attend counselling together if that is appropriate.

What can I do as a parent to support my child or youth in CWWA counselling?

  • We encourage parental involvement in the CWWA program.  Counsellors have information available to parents/caregivers and can assist them with identifying additional supports in the community.   It is important to refrain from asking too many questions about your child/youth’s session.  The support counsellor has a legal responsibility to protect the safety and privacy of your child/youth.  In order for your child/youth to develop a trusting relationship with his or her support counsellor, the counsellor will not share specifics of the session with the parent/caregiver.  The counsellor will share strengths, concerns, and general feedback with the parent/caregiver.

What should I tell my child about CWWA counselling?

  • You may tell your child or youth that sometimes difficult situations can be easier to deal with if they have someone neutral to talk to.  Young people like to feel they have some control in their lives, support counselling can give them a place to explore their feelings and frustrations and talk about their experiences in a safe, supportive environment.  Children and youth decide how much or how little they want to share with the support counsellor, and have some say in the direction counselling takes.  They decide if they want to talk or participate in discussions and activities.  Counsellors will respect the child’s confidentiality, as well as the parent’s/caregiver’s right to confidentiality.

What if the domestic abuse or serious family conflict is still happening?

  • The intention of the CWWA program is to provide counselling services to children/youth whose situations have stabilized.  The program aims to assist children in healing and coping with the emotional, social, behavioural, and psychological issues arising when a child witnesses and/or is exposed to domestic violence, which is not possible when the conflict is ongoing.
  • It may be possible to receive short-term support to discuss safety planning and to provide education around witnessing domestic violence and/or serious family conflict.  Every effort will be made to support you and your child in a safe, non-judgemental, caring manner.

Can a child/youth access his/her own counselling?

  • Yes, under the Infants Act in BC, a youth may consent to health care that is defined as "anything that constitutes a therapeutic, preventative, palliative, diagnostic, cosmetic or other health related purpose, and includes a course of healthy care." (Infants Act, sec. 17, subsection 1) Though the CWWA does promote parent's involvement in their children/youth's support counselling there may be situations in which this is not possible. Children and youth can ask for and receive support without obtaining their parent or guardian's consent.

For more information and locations in BC where CWWA is offered, click here.

For practical information and guidance to do with children who have witnessed abuse, download the following:

Kids Helping Kids Guide (pdf)
Helping My Child Guide (pdf)
Interventions with Children Exposed to Domestic Violence Guide (pdf)

For more information on this program, please call Tina or Jill in Smithers at 250-847-9000 or Tina in Houston at 250-845-3212

Safety Numbers for Children & Youth:

Help Line: 310-1234
Kids Help Line: 1-800-668-6868
Teen Crisis Line: 1-888-564-8336
Suicide Crisis Line: 1-800-784-2433
Youth Against Violence: 1-800-680-4264
Smithers Ambulance: 250-847-8808
B.V.District Hospital: 250-847-2611
Smithers RCMP: 250-847-3233
Ministry of Children and Family Development: 250-847-7727
Passage Transition House: 250-847-2595