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The Child at Risk Response Team (CARRT) celebrates its 20th anniversary.

27-Nov-2015

CARRT was one of the first programs in Canada to pair up police officers and social workers.

History of CARRT

“We’re in the kitchen, and the mom has grabbed her two children by the hair . . . she won’t let go,” says Detective Brian Robertson, original member of the Child At Risk Response Team (CARRT).

Robertson and his partner, then-Social Worker Menasha Nikhani, were apprehending two children. Working together, they managed to disentangle the woman’s fingers from the children’s hair. Then, they each picked up a child and ran out of the house, jumped into a police car and sped away.

Just another day in the life of CARRT workers.

Life before CARRT

Before CARRT was founded, police officers who encountered children in unsafe situations did their best to keep the children calm. They would call the Crisis Unit, who would then respond and send their van to pick up the children.

“We only had one van that operated city-wide back then. If that was already on another call, we would respond in our personal vehicles” notes former CARRT Social Worker, Pamela Thompson.

Police had the authority to apprehend if required. At times they would transport children to the Crisis Unit. Things ran more smoothly once CARRT was introduced. Under CARRT, if it looked like a placement was needed, Social Workers could sometimes take the kids directly to a foster home or other approved family member.

CARRT is born

Because social workers and police officers encountered each on calls, they got to know one another. As a social worker, Pamela Thompson had worked on a few cases with then-Constable Brian Robertson.

The two of them started to compare notes. They soon realized that if social workers and police officers could formalize their working relationships, children-at-risk could be helped in a timely manner.

Thompson knew that the City of Vancouver had a program called Car 86 whereby social workers were paired with police officers.

“Car 86 was a good program. We took what they did and expanded upon it. I was the first social worker to be permanently assigned to work at Police Headquarters.

The first few months were challenging, as we worked our way through bumps in the system. Within a year, though, all police divisions wanted their own CARRT units.”

CARRT today

When Robertson and Thompson talk about how CARRT has evolved, they are impressed by how smoothly run the operation has become.

“Today, officers know what to do if they encounter children-at-risk. They know to ask the parents if there is someone who can take care of the children, and they know they can call CARRT any time,” says Robertson.

Thompson added, “It’s just so gratifying to know that CARRT operates so efficiently, and that the partnership between Health Services and the Edmonton Police Service is so strong and supportive.”

Thompson and Robertson agree that it was a privilege to have been there at the beginning, overcoming challenges and laying the groundwork for all that CARRT has become.

They’re also quick to credit the social workers and police officers who came before them and after them.

CARRT is a success story. It was the first comprehensive program of its type in the country. Police agencies from around the world have studied it and based their programs on the CARRT model. The Calgary Police Service was one of the first to pattern a similar program after CARRT.