To understand what a Children's Advocacy Center (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, law enforcement, lawyers, therapists, investigators, judges, and others. They may have to talk about that traumatic experience in a police station where they think they might be in trouble, or may be asked the wrong questions by a well-meaning teacher or other adult that could hurt the case against the abuser.
When police or Department of Children and Family 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 in a way that does not retraumatize the child. Then, a team that includes medical professionals, law enforcement, mental health, prosecution, child protective services, victim advocacy, and other professionals make decisions together about how to help the child based on the interview. CACs offer therapy and medical exams, plus courtroom preparation, victim advocacy, case management, and other services. This is called the multidisciplinary team (MDT) response and is a core part of the work of CACs.
Without CACs, children would have to speak to 10-12 different people during an investigation of child abuse, repeating their story many times. Since the creation of CACs, children are able to visit the CAC and talk to one person while the MDT views the interview & coordinates the investigation.
If you suspect child abuse, contact the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services at (800) 252-2873 or contact your local authorities.
Children's Advocacy Centers of Illinois 400 S. 9th St., Suite 101 • Springfield, IL 62701 • 217.528.2224