A Child Advocacy Center (CAC) provides a centralized and neutral location where abused children or adolescents and their non-offending family members or caregivers receive services in a non-threatening, child-focused setting. Using a multidisciplinary team approach, professionals conduct investigations, provide treatment and support services, and prepare for prosecution of child abuse cases. Medical providers should obtain a release of information in order to share information with the various members of the multidisciplinary team working at the Child Advocacy Center.
CACs are custom-designed to best meet the needs of the community in which they are located and can have one of any number of organizational structures. They can be designed as independent, non-profit agencies. Alternatively, they can be affiliated with a host agency such as social services, law enforcement, prosecution, or a medical or mental health agency. Services provided by CACs vary based on funding and local needs. Some serve only victims of sexual abuse while others serve all victims of abuse. As defined by the National Children's Alliance, a CAC offers the following program components:
Child-friendly, neutral setting
Multidisciplinary case review
Joint investigations/forensic interviews
Provision for medical examination and evaluation
Provision for mental health treatment
Advocacy and criminal justice system liaison
Community and emergency referral services
CACs may also provide:
Every county in New York State should eventually have a CAC. You can obtain contact information for the closest advocacy center from the New York State Child Advocacy Resource and Consultation Center http://www.nyscarcc.org .