After experiencing abuse, a child may end up having to tell the worst story of his or her life over and over again, to doctors, cops, lawyers, therapists, investigators, judges, and others. But thanks to Child Advocacy Centers and Springboard’s Victim Advocates in Carroll, Harford, and Howard Counties, children will not have to talk about that traumatic experience in a police station where they think they might be in trouble; or asked the wrong questions by a well-meaning teacher or another adult that could hurt the case against the abuser.
Instead, when police or child protective services believe a child may be experiencing abuse, the child is brought to a Child Advocacy Center (CAC)—a safe, child-focused environment—by a caregiver or other “safe” adult. At the Center, the child tells their story once to a trained interviewer who knows the right questions to ask in a way that does not re-traumatize the child. Then, a team that includes medical professionals, law enforcement, mental health, prosecution, child protective services, Springboard’s victim advocates, and other professionals make decisions together about how to help the child based on the interview.
Child Advocacy Centers 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.
How Child Advocacy Centers work...
How do abused children connect with a CAC?
All referrals that come to a CAC are from Child Protective Services (CPS) and/or Law Enforcement (LE). When a child tells a teacher or a teacher suspects any child maltreatment in the home, they make a CPS report. CPS will then screen in or screen out the report. If it is screened in, CPS and LE will contact the family and make arrangements to have them come to the CAC for a forensic interview which is video recorded. Sometimes the States Attorney will be present for the interview. The Advocate will meet with the non-offending caregiver to offer emotional support, provide information on their rights as a victim, provide information on the multidisciplinary team process, and connect them to resources. Depending on the specific case, a medical exam may be conducted.