Due to the success of the Court Preparation Program we researched empirical based evidence and in 2016, decided to introduce an innovative new canine therapy through a partnership with Top Dogs. The theme was that children need to overcome their fears, linking this to “not all dogs bite”, and equally not all adults are going to hurt you. This breaks down the misconceptions or stereotypes and focuses on the issues of trust.

Children and their families who make use of the Teddy Bear Clinic’s services are usually fearful of the criminal justice system. Their perceptions of trust are challenged. The thought of seeing the perpetrator face-to-face again, and the fear of the unknown creeps into their lives.

Some of the children were happy to meet the dogs and others were scared, because the dogs symbolised the unknown to them. But, as soon as the handlers introduced the dogs to the children, their families and the court preparation personnel of the Teddy Bear Clinic, their fears began to decrease. Children and their families realised that experiences, like meeting new people or dogs, can be scary at first, but all that can change and become familiar. Likening the process to facing and overcoming fears, which becomes a journey to healing.