We bring every process a child must go through after allegations of abuse are brought forward under one safe, neutral roof. Our services include:
The purpose of Child Advocacy Center (CAC) forensic interviews is to facilitate information gathering from children to determine whether abuse occurred and, if so, the nature of the allegations. This information is intended to contribute to accurate and fair decision-making by the Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) members relative to the criminal justice, child protection and relevant service delivery systems. Forensic interviews are conducted in a manner that is developmentally and culturally responsive, unbiased, fact-finding and legally sound.
When a child is unable to provide information regarding any concern of abuse through the forensic interview process, other interventions to assess the child’s safety and well-being are required.
CHILD ABUSE MEDICAL EXAMINATIONS
All children who are suspected victims of child abuse are entitled to a medical evaluation by a health care provider with specialized training and expertise. A medical evaluation holds an important place in the multidisciplinary assessment. An accurate and complete history is essential in making medical diagnoses and determining appropriate treatment of child abuse. Medical evaluations are prioritized as emergent, urgent, and non-urgent based on specific screening criteria. In addition, the collection and documentation of forensic findings are vital to the process and should only be conducted at the Child Advocacy Center (CAC).
For most children, the check-up is not painful. Nevertheless, children may feel worried, embarrassed or uncomfortable about their exam. It is normal for children to feel anxious about their examination.
TRAUMA-FOCUSED MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES
A CAC’s mission is to promote and foster safety, healing and justice for children and families. Without effective therapeutic intervention, many children who have experienced trauma may suffer ongoing or long-term adverse social, emotional, developmental and health outcomes. Evidence-based treatments and other practices with strong empirical support help reduce the impact of trauma and the risk of future abuse and other negative consequences.
Victim support and advocacy responsibilities are implemented consistent with legal and, where relevant, state constitutional victims’ rights and the complement of services in the CAC’s coverage area. Many members of the MDT may advocate for children and families within their discipline systems or agencies.
However, victim advocacy is a discipline unto itself with a distinct and central role on the MDT. Victim advocates provide services and resources to ensure a consistent and coordinated comprehensive network of support for each child and family. Children and families in crisis need assistance in navigating the multiple systems involved in the CAC response. Coordination of victim support is the responsibility of the CAC.
COORDINATED CASE REVIEW
Case review is the formal process that enables the MDT to monitor and assess its independent and collective effectiveness so as to ensure the safety and well-being of children and families. The process encourages mutual accountability and helps to assure that children’s and families’ needs are met sensitively, effectively and in a timely manner.
It is the primary objective of the MDT to focus, at all times, on the well-being of the child victim and of avoiding any unnecessary trauma to the child victim. Further, every MDT member agrees that information pertaining to children and families will be held in the strictest confidence outside the MDT meetings.
OUTREACH & EDUCATION
One first step toward reducing the staggering number of abuse victims is through education and awareness. Too many cases of child abuse go unreported. Many adults charged with safeguarding our most vulnerable population don’t recognize the signs and symptoms of abuse or don’t know how to respond. Some are afraid to get involved not realizing the devastating consequences to a child when an adult doesn’t have the courage to take action on a child’s behalf.
The agency’s Education and Outreach Program is committed to providing professionals, parents, caregivers and the community with knowledge about the dynamics and myths of the complex issue of child abuse as well as on what to look for and how to respond if abuse is suspected.
As part of our mission to reduce the devastating long-term effects that child abuse has, we provide advocacy, medical evaluations, forensic interviews, therapeutic intervention, and treatment for child abuse victims ages 0 to 17 referred to our agency. We provide all of these services under one roof in a comfortable, neutral, and safe environment, so child abuse victims feel safe, taken care of, and open to engaging in the recovery process.
Our team of professionals specializes in children’s advocacy services and includes some of the best specialists in their respective fields. In addition to our staff, we rely on a supportive network of volunteers who lend their time to help these children. You can volunteer your time, make a donation, or support any of our programs to make a difference in a child’s life and help put an end to the devastating, long-term effects of child abuse.
Children's Advocacy Centers (CAC) are designed to:
Minimize continued trauma to child victims and their non-offending family members resulting from child physical abuse, child sexual abuse, neglect, or children who have witnessed violence.
To advocate for and support child victims and their non-offending family members.
To enhance the legal process in achieving optimal criminal prosecutions
To understand what a Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) is, you must understand what children face without one. Without a CAC, the child may end up having to tell the worst story of her or his life over and over again, to doctors, cops, lawyers, therapists, investigators, judges, and others. They may have to talk about that traumatic experience in a police station where they think they might be in trouble, or may be asked the wrong questions by a well-meaning teacher or other adult that could hurt the case against the abuser.
When law enforcement or child protective services believe a child may be experiencing abuse, the child is brought to the CAC—a safe, child-focused environment—by a caregiver or other “safe” adult. At the CAC, the child tells their story once to a trained interviewer who knows the right questions to ask in a way that does not not retraumatize the child. Then, the child receives a full medical exam by a pediatrician specially trained in child abuse pediatrics.
Following the forensic interview and medical exam, a team that includes the interviewer, pediatrician, law enforcement, mental health therapists, prosecution, child protective services, victim advocacy, and other professionals make decisions together about how to help the child based on the interview and medical examination. This is called the multidisciplinary team (MDT) response and is a core part of the work of CACs.
The multidisciplinary team reviews active cases on a monthly basis. In addition to gleaning information to prosecute the perpetrator in the case, the team also works to ensure that the victims and their families get assistance with other treatments and services as needed.