What is a Child Advocacy Center?

Children's Advocacy Centers, like the Child Protection Response Center, provide a safe haven for children to talk about the abuse they may have experienced and provide access to services and treatment for victims and their families.  Child Advocacy Centers are part of a multidisciplinary team of professionals involved in child protection and victim advocacy services, law enforcement, and prosecution, and physical and mental health. 

In 2022, there were over 900 Child Advocacy Centers throughout the United States and abroad. 
Last year, 386,191 children were provided services by Child Advocacy Centers.

Image by Antonio Friedemann
 
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The MDT / CAC Model

To best understand what a Child Advocacy Center (CAC) is, it is imperative that you understand what a child would face without one. Without a CAC, a child may end up having to tell the worst story of their life over and over again, to doctors, law enforcement, lawyers, therapists,  investigators, judges, and others.  They may have to talk about traumatic experiences 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 another adult that could hurt the case against the abuser. They may end up in a busy hospital with undertrained staff and without consistent follow-up, aftercare for both the child and family may be limited. 






When police 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 retraumatize the child. Then, a team that includes medical professionals, law enforcement, mental health, prosecution, child protective services, victim advocacy, and other professionals make decisions together about how to help the child based on the interview. CACs offer therapy, therapy referrals, and medical exams, plus courtroom preparation, victim advocacy, case management, and other services. the is called the multidisciplinary team (MDT) response and is a core part of the work of CACs. 

 

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Children's Toys
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Image by Susan Wilkinson

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