“A CAC is a place…and a process.”
CACs intervene to stop abuse when it happens. This is why the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services considers CACs to be Level 1 emergency responders. The priority of any CAC is the immediate safety of children, as well as their ongoing health and well-being.
A Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) is a child-friendly place where a multidisciplinary team (MDT) of professionals—including child protective services caseworkers, police, forensic interviewers, victim or family advocates, prosecutors, and medical and mental health professionals—work together to provide a child-focused, trauma-informed response to allegations of child sexual and physical abuse.
The purpose of a CAC is to provide a child-focused response to alleged abuse. There are many agencies that are involved in this response, and a collaborative approach ensures the child is served in a manner that minimizes additional trauma. Rather than taking a child from agency to agency for multiple interviews in various settings—a CAC brings the process to the child. Through the multidisciplinary team, CACs ensure that children receive all the services they may need, both on site and by referral.
The heart of the CAC model is teamwork—bringing together all the professionals involved in a case right from the beginning.
No matter if they are urban or rural, big or small, all CACs follow national standards that ensure a timely, evidence-based, and trauma-informed response that puts the child’s needs first. CACs are accredited through the National Children’s Alliance.
The CAC Difference—bringing healing to a hard process.
Almost all visits to a CAC involve a forensic interview—a neutral fact-finding conversation that gives a child the opportunity to disclose abuse if it has occurred. It’s very important that the forensic interview takes place in the child-friendly environment of a CAC, with a trained interviewer who gathers evidence in a developmentally appropriate manner, without using leading questions.
While the interview takes place, police investigators and child protective services caseworkers watch the conversation via a video feed from another room. This approach ensures that the child feels safe and comfortable, allows multiple agencies to access the same potential evidence, and eliminates the trauma of repeated interviews. The CAC model provides an efficient, effective—and most importantly, a child-focused—approach to the interview process.
The results of the interview determine what happens next in an investigation. Based on the findings, the multidisciplinary team makes decisions together about next steps and how best to support the child. After the forensic interview, the CAC will provide or make referrals for all of the following services:
- Medical evaluation
- Ongoing victim advocacy support
- Referral for trauma-focused therapy or other mental health services
- Help making follow-up appointments or finding transportation
- Court preparation and support for cases that go to trial
Seen and heard: From trauma to hope.
In 2022 our CACs served a total of 15,735 children across Pennsylvania. We conducted 11,938 forensic interviews, completed 5,859 medical evaluations to ensure health and safety, and made sure 3,458 children received referrals for trauma therapy. For each child and caregiver served at a CAC, victim advocates provided individualized support—including referrals, court preparation and accompaniment, and ongoing assistance as needed.
Thanks to CACs in Pennsylvania, each of those children was given the chance to be seen and heard, to be safe, and to grow into their full potential, without the burden of lasting trauma.
How we support Pennsylvania’s local CACs.
We believe deeply in the extraordinary work of CACs across our state. To help them in the fight to end child abuse and inspire hope for a child’s best tomorrow, we support CACs with the resources they need, including: