Developing New Knowledge for Effective Children’s Advocacy Centers: Employing the NCAtrak Data System for CAC Research

Summary. The proposed research represents an innovative effort to link research with large-scale, standardized case data collection by the National Children’s Alliance (NCA), the membership organization of Children’s Advocacy Centers.  Specifically, UNH and NCA are collaborating to use the NCAtrak system developed by NCA for research.  NCAtrak provides a standardized method for entering, organizing, retrieving, aggregating and protecting information about each case.  It gathers information on the child, family and alleged perpetrator; child protection and police investigations; service response; multidisciplinary team activities; and a variety of outcomes.

Because of the detailed record it produces on each case, NCAtrak presents tremendous potential for research on CACs in particular but also on the response to child abuse allegations in general.  Because of the necessary focus on the practice utility of NCAtrak, especially at this stage of its development, the research potential of NCAtrak is now untapped.  Though NCAtrak can provide brief statistical reports, it is simply not configured now to do a full statistical analysis, to compare subgroups of CACs or cases, or to identify what variables might predict favorable.  The proposed research would provide the time and resources to look at NCAtrak from a research perspective and output and explore special NCAtrak research data files.  It engages an experienced child maltreatment research team in a partnership with NCA for development of critical, new knowledge, and new methods for doing future CAC research.

Goals and Objectives

     The specific objectives are to:

  • Describe the degree of variation in the types of cases seen at Children’s Advocacy Centers including the demographics of the children, alleged offenders, and caregivers, and types of alleged maltreatment.
  • Describe the degree of variation in referral patterns for cases seen in Children’s Advocacy Centers, including which agencies refer cases to the CACs, the timeframe of the referral process, and the point at which the CAC is involved. 
  • Examine how case type and referral patterns vary by agency characteristics such as date of membership status with NCA, type and location of the CAC program, size of the CAC program, types of on-site services, and degree of co-location.