CACs are becoming the best practice standard in child abuse investigations around the country. You might even see those dedicated detectives on your favorite television crime shows talking with children at CACs.
The goal of a CAC is to reduce the trauma experienced by a child during an investigation of child abuse or neglect.
In a county without a CAC, a child may make a report of child abuse to a teacher at school. The teacher, then, instinctively questions the child about the abuse. Next, the teacher sends the child to talk with a school counselor who questions the child again while the teacher makes an official report to Childline.
Childline informs local Child Protective Services and a case worker soon visits the child at school or home to gather information. After seeing bruises on the child's arm, the case worker sends the child to the hospital for a medical exam.
The ER staff take a look at the bruises, but after talking to the child are suspicious of sexual abuse as well. ERs aren't always equipped to do sexual assault exams, so the child is sent to a different hospital where a specialized Nurse Examiner can talk to and exam the child.
Meanwhile, the case worker has talked with local police and prosecutors. Both want to talk with the child. Eventually, they realize that the only way to prosecute the abuser is for the child to testify in court. All of this, on top of the abuse itself, makes it imperative that the child tell her story to an advocate or counselor who can spend time helping her recover.
In a county with a CAC, a child makes a report to a teacher at school who has been trained not to interrogate the child, but to make an immediate report to Childline.
Childline then contacts local Child Protective Services who inform the CAC. The child is scheduled for a visit to the CAC where she speaks privately to one non-uniformed person trained in both juvenile forensic interviewing and child development.
During their conversation, the police, case workers, and prosecutors watch and listen through a two-way mirror or a closed circuit television system.
At the CAC, the child and non-offending family members can both work with a local counselor or advocate and be referred to the proper medical provider if needed. CACs reduce the number of people a child has to talk to after being abused and bring everyone who needs to learn about the case and provide services to the child and family under one roof.