Child Advocacy Centers Make a Difference
To understand what a Children's Advocacy Center (CAC) is, you must understand what children face without one. Without a CAC, the child may end up having to tell the worst story of his or her life over and over again, to doctors, cops, lawyers, therapists, investigators, judges, and others. They may have to talk about that traumatic experience in a police station where they think they might be in trouble or may be asked the wrong questions by a well-meaning teacher or another adult that could hurt the case against the abuser.
When police or child protective services believe a child is being abused, the child is brought to the CAC—a safe, child-focused environment—by a caregiver or other “safe” adult. At the CAC, the child tells their story once to a trained interviewer who knows the right questions to ask in a way that does not not retraumatize the child. Then, a team that includes medical professionals, law enforcement, mental health, prosecution, child protective services, victim advocacy, and other professionals make decisions together about how to help the child based on the interview. CACs offer therapy and medical exams, plus courtroom preparation, victim advocacy, case management, and other services. This is called the multidisciplinary team (MDT) response and is a core part of the work of CACs.
Courtesy of NCA - www.nationalchildrensalliance.org/cac-model
In 2006, researchers at the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire released findings from the five-year multi-site national evaluation of the CAC model. Data from over 1000 cases of sexual abuse handled by communities with and without a CAC were collected and subject to comparative analysis.
** CACs showed significantly more evidence of coordinated investigations.
** More children involved with a CAC received a specialized medical evaluation.
** More children involved in a CAC were referred to mental health services.
** Parents and caregivers of children served by CACs were more satisfied with the investigation (than those in comparison sample.
Child Advocacy Centers Save Money
A recent national cost-benefit analysis of the Children’s Advocacy Center model shows that CACs save approximately $1,000 per case in services to children and families during the course of a child abuse investigation.
On a per-case basis, traditional investigations were 36% more expensive than a CAC investigation. The cost of a CAC investigation averaged $2,902 compared to $3,949 for a traditional abuse investigation.
For more information, visit Executive Summary: Findings from the NCAC Cost-Benefit Analysis of Community Responses to Child Maltreatment.