Where children are heard.
Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs) serve children and adolescents who are believed to be victims of abuse—most frequently, sexual abuse.
Most children don’t immediately disclose that they’ve been sexually abused. Many don’t tell for months or even years; some never tell. It can be a difficult story to tell.
Before CACs, a child would have to repeat their story to different professionals over the course of weeks or months. This uncoordinated approach often left the child and their family feeling alone and confused. It also made it difficult for investigators to have a clear picture of what happened.
Children’s Advocacy Centers are designed to be a child-friendly place where a child can feel safe telling their story. There the child is interviewed one-on-one by someone who is specially trained to take the child’s statement. Agencies involved in the investigation come together at the CAC to observe the interview, often through a closed-circuit video feed. Members from those agencies and the CAC will form a team that continues to work on behalf of the child.
Where children can heal.
For a child and the family, the effects of abuse can be felt long after the case is closed. The impact of trauma from these hurts can be devastating and far-reaching.
The ability of the child to heal will be greatly influenced by what happens after the child discloses. In addition to helping the child to tell their story, Children’s Advocacy Centers ensure that a family isn’t left by themselves to figure out how to cope. CACs work with parents and other non-offending caregivers to identify ways to nurture healthy relationships with and promote resiliency in the child. CACs also provide access to trauma-informed, evidenced-based therapy to help victims become survivors, and more importantly, helping survivors get back to their childhoods.
These services are provided at no cost to the children and families seen at the CAC.
The CAC model highlights the importance of a multidisciplinary team that includes prosecution, law enforcement, child protective services, medical professionals, mental health providers, victim advocates, and other professionals involved in the case.
When a child does not have access to a CAC, they may end up having to tell the worst part of their life over and over again to all of these different investigators and other professionals.