A Child Advocacy Center (CAC) is a safe, non-threatening, child-friendly, facility-based program where representatives from various disciplines meet to discuss and make decisions about the intervention, investigation, and prosecution of child abuse cases. Professionals at the CAC also work to provide mental health assessments and referrals to trauma-trained clinicians—helping victims heal and become stable. The Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) also works together to prevent further victimization of children and to improve community response to child abuse.
This MDT approach brings together under one umbrella all the professionals and agencies needed to offer comprehensive services: law enforcement, Child Protective Services, prosecution, mental health, victim advocates, medical, and the Child Advocacy Center professionals.
The Regional Child Advocacy Center and Local Child Advocacy Center program came into existence in 1992 through the Victims of Child Abuse Act. Local CACs are established to meet the unique needs of child abuse victims, and remain a program under the Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice. CACs are accredited through the National Children's Alliance, and must meet standards that are established by the Office of Juvenile Justice.
Communities that have a Child Advocacy Center experience many benefits: more immediate follow-up to child abuse reports; more efficient medical and mental health services/ referrals; reduction in the number of child victim interviews; increase in successful prosecution; and consistent support for child victims and their families throughout the investigation, prosecution and stabilization processes.
This comprehensive approach, with follow-up services provided by the CAC, ensures that children receive child-focused services in a safe, friendly environment – one in which the child's needs come first!
Core Components of a Children's Advocacy Center
Safe, child-friendly facilities for interviewing and providing medical and mental health services to child victims and their non-offending family members;
Seven core disciplines: law enforcement, Child Protective Services, prosecution, mental health and medical community, victim advocates and the Child Advocacy Center;
- Coordinated multidisciplinary investigation team
- Regular multidisciplinary case review
- Intensive case follow-up
- Specially-trained professionals
- Crisis counseling
- Ongoing supportive services
- Resources and referrals and
- Victim advocacy