Before CACs existed, at-risk and abused children had a very different experience than they do now. Now, they serve over 300,000 children a year. Here are the most important benefits CACs provide.
Carefully Trained Interviewers
Prior to the existence of CACs, the interview process could vary widely from one case to another. Untrained interviewers might engage in improper techniques more likely to elicit false allegations, or they might simply conduct a clumsy interview. In such cases, rapport might not be established, which would make the child less likely to disclose abuse. Alternatively, sloppy questioning might lead to a lack of detail that would result in a failed prosecution. Because CAC interviewers are carefully trained in forensic interviewing techniques, successful prosecutions are more likely. When done well, only one interview is necessary, which means that children don’t have to relive traumatic events multiple times.
A Child-Friendly Environment
For a child, stepping into a clinical setting or an interview room designed for adults can be very intimidating. Naturally, this adversely affects the interview process. In a Child Advocacy Center, the interview room is likely to have a play area and art supplies, so a child can disclose while engaging in a familiar activity. It’s also likely to have child-sized seating, so that the adult interacts on the child’s level, rather than the reverse.
A Buffer from Their Abuser
This may seem unbelievable now, but in the past, child victims were sometimes interviewed in the presence of the alleged abuser. The rise in digitally recorded interviews further protects the child by preserving more nuanced evidence, and reducing the likelihood that a child will have to testify in court.
More Effective Prosecution
Child Advocacy Centers prevent many problems that plague child abuse cases. Poorly handled investigations increase trauma for the child at all stages of the process. A bad interview can even reduce a child’s credibility in the eyes of judges and prosecutors. Poor evidence also leads to incidents of false allegations. When you consider that a false allegation may result in the child being separated from loving parents or caregivers, the importance of this becomes even more clear. Failed cases are a drain on the resources of law enforcement offices, and fail to protect our most vulnerable citizens. They also become lightning rods for negative media attention.
Resources for Recovery
A final point worth noting is that CACs continue working with families after their role in evidence collection is complete. CACs provide counseling and connect families with a variety of other services, as well. Their work goes beyond the scope of what law enforcement can provide. In this way, they ensure that the victims of abuse and neglect are protected from a case’s beginning to its end, while also preserving high quality forensic evidence to protect the child from his or her abuser in the future. Child Advocacy Centers’ careful interviewing, documentation, and support improves outcomes for victims, their families, and prosecutors.