The Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) is part of The CARE Center. It provides a safe and supportive place where abuse concerns can be explored. The CAC is special because it exists solely to provide a child-focused approach to investigation of suspected abuse and neglect. It strives to reduce as much stress as possible for the parents/caregivers and child.
Prior to establishing the CAC, Indiana County children with alleged child abuse reports may have had to tell their story to multiple adults. The child may have been taken to a police station and a doctor’s office or hospital. They may have had to tell their story to police, a Children and Youth Services case worker, and an attorney. You can imagine how overwhelming and scary this would be for children.
These people now come to the child at the CAC. Police, a Children and Youth case worker, and the attorney from the District Attorney’s office can watch the interview. The CAC is designed to reduce stress for children. From our waiting area to the forensic interview room, the CAC is designed to feel safe and welcoming.
The Forensic Interview
While at the CAC, the child will meet with an interviewer who will make the child feel comfortable and will gather information from him/her in a way that is neutral, supportive, and developmentally appropriate. Interviews are done in a manner that is neutral and not done to “prove” abuse occurred. This process is called a forensic interview. All CAC interviewers receive training that is recognized by the National Children’s Alliance. This is the standard of training in the U.S.
It's recommended that someone who can provide support to the child attend the interview with the child. This can be any adult except the person who allegedly committed the abuse. The alleged abuser is not permitted to come to the CAC.
Forensic Interview Room
Medical Exam Room
Children's Advocacy Center
The Multidisciplinary Team
The multidisciplinary team (MDT) is a group of professionals who are experts in their fields and are dedicated to working together to share resources and minimize trauma to children. The MDT reviews the forensic interview. Using this team approach reduces stress for the child, improves the investigation, reduces the number of times the child must tell his/her story, and coordinates services for the child and family. Since the experience of each child is different, the professionals on the team change to reflect the child’s needs.
After the Interview
The MDT meets monthly to review cases of children who received services at the CAC. This is done for each case until it is resolved. The team may make recommendations to assist the family/caregivers and the child.
The Forensic Medical Exam
Depending on the abuse or neglect a child may have experienced, a medical exam can be an important part of the investigation, and more importantly, help ensure the health and safety of the child. The CAC provides forensic medical exams. A specially trained physician will perform a “head to toe” assessment of the child’s physical well-being. Injury or infection can be assessed and documented. The child’s safety can be evaluated. It also is an opportunity to identify medical treatments unrelated to abuse and assess the child’s physical, emotional, and behavioral development. The physician can also let the child know that his/her body is normal, despite what happened.
(If the abuse has occurred within the past 72 hours, please take the child to the emergency department or contact the child’s doctor. Some evidence collection and potential treatments should occur within this time frame when possible.)
Whether or not abuse has occurred, the CAC staff recognize that this may be a stressful time for family, caregivers, and the child. The CAC staff and members of the MDT are able to provide support, answer any questions about the investigative process, and coordinate services or provide referrals as needed.
The CARE Center’s CAC is accredited through the National Children’s Alliance.