Children's Advocacy Center
ENDING CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT AFTER DISCLOSURE
The primary goal of all National Children’s Alliance (NCA) children’s advocacy centers is to ensure that children disclosing abuse are not further victimized by the intervention systems designed to protect them.
Child abuse and neglect is a major problem – and a major concern – for communities throughout the United States. We all know that the problem exists. The real question becomes “What happens to a child victim once he or she discloses?
Often, agency personnel from law enforcement, child protective services, prosecution, medical, victim advocacy and mental health services will respond to child abuse cases. Traditionally, each agency or professional has a different role in the investigation and intervention process. Sometimes, their efforts to fulfill these roles will result in multiple interviews of the victim — and in re-traumatizing the victim they are seeking to assist.
In the past, there was no mechanism for coordinating these services. In 1985, however, a quiet revolution took place with the establishment of the first children’s advocacy center in Huntsville, Alabama. Now, instead of the child victim navigating a difficult and confusing system of multiple, repetitive interviews, the system could be brought to the child. Children’s advocacy centers are modeled on the simple but powerful concept of coordination between community agencies and professionals involved in the intervention system.
From that first center in Huntsville, a national movement was created. Today, there are nearly 700 children’s advocacy centers nationwide, and more on the way. Children’s advocacy centers are community-based programs, designed to meet the unique needs of the particular community in which it is located — so no two centers are exactly alike, but all adhere to national standards for accreditation.
CHILD AND FAMILY FRIENDLY FACILITIES
Children’s Advocacy centers are child-focused, facility-based programs. Although some aspects of a multidisciplinary approach to child abuse can exist without a neutral facility, a designated facility is fundamental to a children’s advocacy center. The location is generally separate from any agency involved in the intervention process it is designed to create a sense of safety and security for the children.
MULTIDISCIPLINARY TEAM RESPONSE
Children’s advocacy centers emphasize the coordination of investigation and intervention services by bringing together professionals and agencies as a multidisciplinary team to create a child-focused approach to child abuse cases. These “MDTs” generally consist of representatives from:
– Children’s Advocacy Center
– Dept. of Human Services / Child Protective Services
– Prosecutor’s Office
– Therapists and Advocates
– Law Enforcement
– Victim Advocates
– Forensic Interviewers
– Medical Providers, Trained in Performing CAC Evaluations