What is a Children’s Advocacy Center?
Children’s advocacy centers (CACs) are community based, child-focused and child-friendly facilities where representatives from many disciplines meet to discuss and make decisions about investigation, treatment and prosecution of child abuse cases. The primary goal of all CACs is to ensure that children are not further victimized by the intervention systems designed to protect them.
Key components of child advocacy center include:
- Child-appropriate/child-friendly facilities both physically and psychologically safe for clients
- A designated legal entity responsible for program and fiscal operations
- Culturally competent and diverse policies, practices and procedures
- A multidisciplinary team for response to child abuse allegations with members from law enforcement, child protective services, prosecution, mental health, medical, victim advocacy and children’s advocacy center
- Forensic interviews conducted in a neutral, fact-finding environment and coordinated to avoid duplicative interviewing
- Medical evaluation at the center or through coordination and referral with other providers
- Victim support/advocacy coordinating with other providers throughout investigation and legal proceedings
- Case review to provide team-discussion and information sharing throughout the case
- Case tracking to monitor case progress and case outcomes
Limited English Proficiency
- The Children’s Advocacy Center of Northeast Michigan provides, free of charge, language assistance to persons with limited English proficiency.
- Esta agencia provee, sin costo alguno, asistencia de idiomas a personas con conocimiento limitado de ingles.
CACs – a National Model
Nationally, there are 435 accredited Child Advocacy Centers providing services to more than 175,000 children. More than one third of these children are under the age of six. The average age of a CAC client is nine. In addition, there are at least another 200 CAC programs in various stages of development nationally.
The Washington, D.C. based National Children’s Alliance is the national membership organization and accrediting body for Child Advocacy Centers. Founded in 1996, NCA serves as a sub-grantor of more than $8 million dollars in federal funds from the United States Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to support the development, growth and sustainability of CAC programs nationally.
Benefits of Child Advocacy Centers to the Community
Communities that have developed a CAC experience the following: more immediate follow-up to child abuse reports; more efficient medical and mental health referrals; reduction in the number of child interviews; increased successful prosecutions; and consistent support for child victims and their families.
Professionals involved in multidisciplinary work report greater appreciation and understanding of the missions of other disciplines with better access to cross-disciplinary training, and more informed decision making. This comprehensive approach, with follow-up services provided by the CAC, ensures that children receive child-focused services in a child friendly environment – one in which the needs of children and families come first.
Reprinted from Putting Standards into Practice: A Guide to Implementing NCA Standards for Children’s Advocacy Centers 2000
How you can help
- Learn more about child abuse and spread the word to family, friends, and neighbors on how to keep our children safe.
- Report cases of suspected child abuse to the proper authorities and encourage others to do the same. The One number to call in the State of Michigan is 855-444-3911.
- Donate your time or your money to a child advocacy center.
- Organize a fundraising event to support your local child advocacy center or child abuse prevention program.