What is a CAC?
(Child Advocacy Center)
MCS Child Advocacy is Accredited by the NATIONAL CHILDREN'S ALLIANCE (NCA).
About National Children's Alliance & CACs
NATIONAL CHILDREN'S ALLIANCE (NCA) is the national association and accrediting body for a network of 795 Children’s Advocacy Centers—CACs. We provide support, advocacy, quality assurance, and national leadership for CACs, all to help support the important work that CACs do in communities across the country. CACs provide a coordinated, evidence-based response to child victims of abuse.
Our mission is to promote and support communities in providing a coordinated investigation and comprehensive response to child victims of abuse through child advocacy centers and multidisciplinary teams.
Why do children need Children's Advocacy Centers?
An estimated 1,564 children died from abuse and neglect in the United States in 20141, the most recent year for which there is national data. But child abuse fatalities are not the only consequences of abused children suffer. Sexual abuse, physical abuse, an neglect are forms of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) that researchers have linked to mental health problems, such as mood disorders, anxiety, substance abuse, and impulse control disorders.2 Child abuse often co-occurs with other ACEs, like witness to domestic or community violence, traumatic loss or separation, or sexual assault. Adults with multiple ACES have even been shown to be more likely to endure poor health outcomes like diabetes, STDs, heart disease, and early death.
In short, without intervention, child abuse causes lifelong problems.
But Children’s Advocacy Centers help kids by providing them with justice and healing from their abuse in a child-friendly setting they can trust. In addition to helping collect forensic evidence to help law enforcement and CPS protect children from abusers, CACs coordinate a complete response to the needs of a child after abuse. Last year, CACs around the country served more than 311,000 child victims of abuse, providing forensic interviews, evidence-based mental health treatments that are proven to reduce symptoms, case management, victim advocacy services, and more.
What is a CAC?
CACs are how communities mount a coordinated response to allegations of child abuse. To understand what a CAC is, you must understand what children face without one. Without a CAC, the child may end up having to tell the worst story of his or her life over and over again, to doctors, police, lawyers, therapists, investigators, judges, and others. They may not get the help they need to heal once the investigation is over, either.
When police or child protective services believe a child is being abused, the child is brought to the CAC—a safe, child-focused environment—by a caregiver or other “safe” adult. At the CAC, the child tells their story once to a trained interviewer who knows the right questions to ask. Then, based on the interview, a multidisciplinary team (MDT) that includes medical professionals, law enforcement, mental health providers, prosecution, child protective services, victim advocates, and other professionals make decisions together about how to help the child. Finally, they offer a wide range of services like therapy, medical exams, courtroom preparation, victim advocacy, case management, and more.