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What is a child advocacy center?
Without a child advocacy center:
Without a CAC, a child may end up having to retell the details of the worst experience of their life over and over again, to doctors, police, lawyers, therapists, investigators, judges, and others. Furthermore, they may not get the help they need to heal once the investigation is over.
CACs are child-focused facilities that help abused children heal by coordinating the investigation and treatment of child sexual abuse and providing children and families access to long-term advocacy and healthcare. To better understand what a CAC is, you must understand what children face without one.
With a child advocacy center:
When law enforcement or child welfare agencies believe a child is being abused, the child is brought by a safe adult/caregiver to the CAC; a safe, neutral, child-friendly, developmentally appropriate environment. At the CAC, the child tells what happened to them to a specially trained forensic interviewer who provides a neutral, fact-finding interview. Then, based on the interview, a Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) that includes specialized medical and mental health professionals, law enforcement, prosecution, child protective services, victim advocacy, and other professionals make decisions together about how to best help the child based on the information gathered in this one-time interview. Through coordination of services, CACs are able to offer a range of services like mental health treatment, medical exams, victim advocacy, case management, and more for the child and non-offending caregivers.