A Child Advocacy Center (CAC), what is it and how does it work?
In short, a CAC is a place where you find every service needed for child abuse victims and their families all under one roof. It’s “how communities mount a coordinated response to allegations of child abuse” (National Children’s Alliance). You can find CAC’s throughout the entire country to assist families when a child has been a victim of physical or sexual abuse. Dawson Place is Snohomish County’s CAC located in downtown Everett.
How does a CAC work? To give you a better picture of how a CAC works, lets first imagine what happens without one. Caretakers must drive to numerous appointments around the county to find the services they need such as medical examinations, mental health treatment, advocacy, and prosecution. At each stop, child abuse victims must retell the worst experience of their life over and over to each person involved in their case. Often times, these individuals are not trained to reduce the trauma children experience by retelling their story.
At a CAC, caretakers bring the victims to one safe, welcoming, child-friendly environment, where all the services are located. Most importantly, it allows child victims to tell their story as few times as possible. A victim will tell their story to a trained child interview specialist, who works to reduce the trauma of telling their story and finds the facts needed to treat the victim and prosecute a case. Inside the building, a multidisciplinary team of advocates, medical providers, therapists, law enforcement officers, and prosecutors work together to effectively and efficiently provide the child safety, justice, and healing.
The CAC model allows victims and caretakers going through one of the most difficult experiences in their life, ease, safety, comfort, and support. We know that without intervention, child abuse and neglect can create lifelong problems and the CAC model is the most effective way to provide victims a future where they can thrive.