Child Advocacy Centers
Children Advocacy Centers (CACs) are the fastest growing community-based model for coordinating multidisciplinary investigations and modernizing and facilitating services for child abuse victims. The first CAC was founded in 1985 and today there are over 600 CACs, with at least one in every state in the U.S. Although the development and leadership of these agencies is community-based, a national membership organization, the National Children’s Alliance (NCA), oversees an accreditation process where member agencies are required to demonstrate that they meet a number of key service standards.
Given the growing influence of CACs on child abuse investigation practices, there have been increasing calls for evaluation of the efficacy of the model and its components. A recent Multi-Site Evaluation of Children’s Advocacy Centers project found a number of successes for CACs:
- Greater access of victims to medical exams,
- More involvement by law enforcement in sexual abuse investigations, and
- Greater satisfaction by the non-offending caregiver with the investigation process.
However, the results also highlight areas in need of more attention by CACs:
- Successful multidisciplinary team coordination varied widely across sites and
- There were no differences favoring CACs versus comparison sites on mental health service access for victims, satisfaction with the investigation for children, or criminal justice outcomes.
Cross, T. P., Jones, L. M., Walsh, W. A., Simone, M., Kolko, D. Szczepanski, J., et al. (in press). The Multi-Site Evaluation of Children’s Advocacy Centers: Overview of the results and implications for practice. Bulletin. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, Department of Justice.