The Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) model streamlines the process related to responding to child abuse, reduces trauma for children and saves taxpayers’ dollars.
It’s so rewarding to know that the Coffee County Children’s Advocacy Center helps children overcome pain. I have seen fear in the eyes of children disappear when they enter the Coffee County CAC.
In 2004, the Coffee County CAC was founded based on the CAC model. The nonprofit opened its doors to serve Coffee County children, who are victims of severe child abuse. The model used by the Coffee County CAC makes the process less traumatic for the child and family.
CAC model reduces trauma
One of the most important aspects of the CAC model is that it allows the child to tell his or her story only once in a safe and child friendly place. The forensic interview takes place at the advocacy center and is recorded for members of the child protective investigative team to use as part of their case. The child protective investigative team is part of the CAC model that depends on the teamwork of all the professionals involved in child abuse investigations. Experts provide professional and compassionate services to meet the needs of the victims. This model brings together law enforcement, Department of Children’s Services (DCS), prosecution, forensic interviewer, family advocate, juvenile court, mental health provider and medical professionals. The advocacy center coordinates the case review process with all team members. Prior to the CAC model, agencies worked separately to respond to child abuse, and children sometimes had to talk with several professionals to describe their traumatic experiences.
CAC model saves taxpayers’ money
It is important to note that a coordinated response to child abuse investigations saves the community money as well. According to a report from the National Child Advocacy Center, on a per-case basis, traditional investigations were 36% more expensive than coordinated team investigations done at a CAC. The average per-case cost of a CAC investigation was $2,902 compared to $3,949 for a non-CAC investigation, generating a savings of more than $1,000-per case, according to Cost-Benefit Analysis of Community Responses to Child Maltreatment: A Comparison of Communities with and without Child Advocacy Centers.
CAC model process
When severe child abuse is initially reported, law enforcement and the Department of Children’s Services respond to conduct a join investigation. Law enforcement officers work to ensure public safety. DCS officials ensure the child’s home is safe. The Coffee County CAC becomes involved to coordinate the efforts of all agencies. The child visits the Coffee County CAC, where the forensic interviewer conducts the interview. Evidence is collected. Medical professionals provide specialized medical exams. Our family advocate provides resources to the child and non-offending caregivers. The next step is presenting the case to the full child protective investigative team. If appropriate, the case will then go through the legal system. While the case goes through the justice system, our family advocate continues to support the child and family with resources, and a mental health professional provides therapy to the child, if necessary. Regardless of it a case goes to trial, the CAC provides trauma-focused therapy to the child if needed in order to help him or her begin the healing process.
To learn more about Coffee County CAC, follow us on social media and visit www.coffeecountycac.org.
*Column by Joyce Prusak*