Before Children’s Advocacy Centers
If your child made an outcry of abuse, wouldn’t you want the investigation, prosecution and intervention services to be handled in a manner sensitive to the needs of your child? Prior to children’s advocacy centers, a child’s outcry of abuse didn’t necessarily mean the hurt was over.
Due to the complex nature of these cases, our systems require the involvement of many different professionals to investigate, prosecute and intervene. Historically, information was not routinely shared, efforts were rarely coordinated, and obtaining successful outcomes for these child victims was virtually impossible. The child victim would be forced to tell his/her story over and over again to individual agencies, further traumatizing the child and not allowing the child to get the help needed in order to move forward in their journey of reclaiming their life.
After Children’s Advocacy Centers
Multi-Disciplinary Teams made up of professionals now meet to ensure no child victim slips through the cracks and that essential services are provided in a timely and efficient manner. Cases are evaluated at intervals to determine if additional CAC services are needed. The key word here is teamwork. An MDT or Multi-Disciplinary Team, is a group of professionals who work together in a coordinated and collaborative manner to ensure an effective response to reports of child abuse and neglect. Members of the team represent the government agencies and private practitioners responsible for investigating crimes against children and protecting and treating children in a particular community. The MDT approach promotes well-coordinated child abuse investigations that benefit from the input and attention of many different parties—especially law enforcement, prosecution, and child protective services—to ensure a successful conclusion to the investigation and to minimize additional trauma to the child victim.
Children’s advocacy centers (CACs) operate on the fundamental belief that the best interests of the child victim should be protected as the case proceeds through the investigation and prosecution stages and beyond. CACs offer a child-friendly environment where child victims can feel safe talking about it, in the event something has happened to them. Additionally, CACs ensure that the information and therapeutic services necessary to the healing process are readily accessible for these children and their protective family members. CACs support and coordinate the efforts of a multidisciplinary team (MDT) of professionals consisting of: Law enforcement investigators, Prosecutors, Child Protective Service Workers, Medical Professionals, Mental Health Professionals and Victim Advocates.
The CAC Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) is the cornerstone of the CAC model
MDT Enhancement Program
The MDT Enhancement Program was launched, refocusing Texas CACs on the importance of the multidisciplinary response by strengthening CAC MDTs statewide, promoting better joint investigations of abuse.
The Texas Legislature boosted the effectiveness of the CAC MDT Enhancement Program by funding its statewide expansion. This funding allowed the implementation of programs giving access to all notifications of reported child abuse referred to law enforcement through the Department of Family Protective Services Statewide Intake. CACs can now coordinate joint investigations of child abuse earlier in the process and provide critical services faster.
As a result, the number of children receiving critically important CAC services and whose abuse cases benefited from the MDTs coordinated investigations increased 15%.
Here at the Johnson County Children’s Advocacy Center our Statewide Intake Coordinator averages over 200 qualifying reports of abuse each month. This past Quarter, April 2017-June 2017, 599 qualifying reports were received by the Statewide Intake Coordinator. Also, we conducted 131 Forensic Interviews. This dedicated CAC staff position is trained to review all incoming notifications of child abuse and neglect daily to determine which reports fit within the existing case criteria, as outlined in a CAC/MDT’s Working Protocols. The responsibilities of the IC also include:
- Establishing and maintaining open communication and healthy relationships with all partner agency representatives, CAC Forensic Interviewers, family advocates, and medical/mental health providers.
- Facilitating dialogue with Children’s Protective Services and Law Enforcement Investigators related to identification of cases in need of forensic interviews, joint investigations, and case review.
- Coordinating investigations and forensic interviews by reaching out to CPS, and Law Enforcement to schedule interviews and/or add a case for discussion during case staffing’s.
- Initiating the process for more in-depth review of reports.
- Coordinating between law enforcement, CPS, and the forensic interviewers at the CAC when scheduling forensic interviews.
- Making contact with appropriate Children’s Protective Services and Law Enforcement Investigators to facilitate initiation of joint investigation.
The multi-disciplinary team (MDT) approach to work these serious felony cases. This team includes the following agencies:
- Crimes Against Children Detectives
- Child Protective Service Investigators
- Forensic Interviewers
- Medical Staff
- Family Advocates
- Juvenile Services.
The appropriate team members are notified each time a child’s case is referred that fits case criteria. The JCCAC works cases of sexual abuse, severe physical abuse and cases where children have witnessed homicides or other violent crimes.
The teamwork and cooperation of the MDT is a vital part of protecting children. The coordinated joint investigations between CACs and other members of the MDT help in preventing child victims from falling through the cracks; continuing to meet our mission of providing each child who has suffered abuse with justice, hope and healing.
To learn more about the Johnson County Children’s Advocacy Center visit www.cacjctx.org.
Also visit www.cactx.org to learn more about CACs in Texas.