What is a Child Advocacy Center?
Child Advocacy Centers are community-based, child friendly, multidisciplinary services for children and families affected by child sexual abuse or severe physical abuse. CAC’s bring together, in one location, Child Protective Services caseworkers, law enforcement, assistant district attorney’s and medical and mental health professional to provide a coordinated, comprehensive response to victims and their caregivers.
Before our CAC existed, the “system” was doing more harm than good to victims of child abuse. Children repeated their stories over and over again. They were questioned in ER’s, police stations, schools, doctor’s offices and being re-traumatized each time they had to repeat the stories of the trauma they experienced.
Now, our partners, Child Protective Services, local law enforcement, prosecutors and medical professionals come together in one location. Children tell their story once to a trained forensic interviewer, get a medical exam, meet with a therapist when needed and are linked with a victim advocate. All team members work together to provide the child and family the support services they need – from the beginning to the end of the process.
The CAC is built on a multidisciplinary team approach by providing a non-threatening child focused environment. Our location is central and neutral for families and team members. The CAC provides supportive care for the child as well as the family. Our advocates work with the NYS Office of Victim Services and help families to navigate the application process. The advocates will also refer families to appropriate counseling centers where it will be convenient for them to get the services they need.
Today there are nearly 700 CACs nationwide. CACs are designed to meet the needs of the community in which it is located – so no 2 centers are exactly alike.