Our Approach: The Center uses a holistic approach to child protection. This is at the heart of everything the Children’s Advocacy Center does. Therapists, law enforcement officers, educators, caregivers and court administrators work together to provide critical services as children navigate the criminal justice system. These individuals answer the call for help, provide treatment for abuse, and convict perpetrators. The Children’s Advocacy Center is considered to be a key liaison with all agencies involved in working child abuse cases. They also work hand in hand with many community partners that provide resources to help families gain independence. In many of the cases the perpetrator may be the breadwinner. Once a case is underway the family may endure financial hardships in those situations. Partnering with community agencies further expands our ability to serve hurting families. Community partners also play a vital role in our “Baby Moses Project”, “Fostering in Faith” and our “Child Fatality Review Team”.
The Center is also able to provide specialized instruction and training for agency partners working these complex cases. Many smaller agencies are unable to provide training due to limited funding and space.
Our Story: The Children’s Advocacy Center serving Johnson County has been serving child victims since February of 1998. The center provides a multi-disciplinary team approach for those child victims that have suffered sexual abuse, severe physical abuse, witnessed a homicide or violent crime or have been found in dangerous drug environments. We provide services for these children at a location that has been designed specifically to meet their needs. The center is bright and warm and has amazing therapy dogs and a K-9 Advocate that greets children at the door.
The multi-disciplinary team or MDT that is in place to assist these children is made up of the center’s staff which includes the executive director, program director, two therapists, direct service coordinator, victim’s services/community outreach coordinator and our intake coordinator/administrative assistant. Our partnering agency members are made up members from all Johnson County law enforcement agencies, prosecutors from both the District and County Attorney’s Offices, juvenile services, Child Protective Services and medical professionals from Cook Children’s.
This MDT approach to these very difficult cases allows us work the case from start to finish without fear of the case falling through the cracks of the criminal justice system. All cases that come through the center are referred by law enforcement or Child Protective Services. When a case is referred the child involved is provided a professional forensic interview and a team approach to their investigation that allows team members to make immediate decisions on safety plans, search warrants, arrest warrants, medical referrals, and resource referrals.
Families referred have immediate access to services at the center that include forensic interviews, crisis intervention, individual, family and group counseling, work with our K-9 Child Advocate and amazing Therapy Dogs, personal advocacy and support, assistance with resource referrals that might include finding emergency shelter, help with groceries, utility bills, medical assistance, finding a job, court school and court accompaniment and overall helping to keep the family supported through this very difficult process.
Since this team approach has been put into place the effective prosecution rate of these cases has increased by 70%. Most importantly, child victims are realizing that they do have hope for a much brighter tomorrow.