What is a Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC)?

Addressing the physical, emotional, and legal facets of abuse requires a unique centralized approach, only found within a Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC). It is in this child-focused and safe environment that a coordinated response from trained experts provides the help and resources child victims and their families desperately need.

The primary goal of a CAC is to reduce the additional trauma experienced by child victims, improve prosecution outcomes, and provide efficient, compassionate, thorough, no-cost services to the child victim and non-offending family members.

Without the present centralized CAC model, child victims of yesterday were shuttled to multiple facilities, in which they would need to repeatedly recount their frightening story. Repetition only further imbedded the trauma. Today’s coordinated, team effort clearly and efficiently gathers helpful information while minimizing vicarious trauma.

CAC Model

The services provided by a Children’s Advocacy Center include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Forensic interviews conducted in a neutral, fact-finding nature and coordinated to avoid duplicate interviewing
  • Crisis intervention and emotional support for victims and non-offending family members
  • Counseling and medical services to help victims and non-offending family members heal from the emotional wounds associated with child abuse
  • Medical evaluations
  • Careful case reviews by a group of professionals, called a Multidisciplinary Team (MDT), which includes law enforcement, prosecutors, interviewers, social workers, medical and mental health professionals, victim assistance staff, and child advocates
  • Evidence-based prevention and intervention programs to reduce the likelihood of child maltreatment and to provide safe and caring homes for children
  • Professional training and community education to effectively respond to child abuse

The Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) model was created to improve the community’s response to child abuse.

Currently, this approach is considered to be a best practice in responding to child sexual abuse in the United States. Throughout the country, there are now more than 900 Children Advocacy Centers which served more than 300,000 children last year, and this model has now been implemented in more than 33 countries throughout the world.

The CAC Process

Once signs of abuse are recognized and reported, each case is then evaluated by Social Services. Validated cases of child sexual abuse are referred to Valley CAC, where a forensic interview is conducted by a trained professional and observed in a separate room by members of the multidisciplinary team (MDT). Depending upon the case, children and family members may receive advocacy, medical and mental health treatment, and other essential resource referrals.

Valley CAC’s role is to lead this group of professionals (the MDT) ensuring each case moves carefully and efficiently through the therapeutic, investigative and prosecution processes.

The Multidisciplinary Team concept was a core aspect of the original Child Advocacy Center model developed by Bud Cramer during the early 1980’s. Previously in the United States, the response to child sexual abuse was poorly coordinated between the various entities with a responsibility for conducting the initial investigation and response to child sexual abuse. This innovative model recognized that to effectively respond to this issue, a unique public-private partnership was essential, and the various agencies and departments responsible for the protection of children must be united in a collaborative effort to respond with the understanding that no one agency by itself could assure the protection of children.