This is part 4 in a series that recognizes April as Child Abuse Prevention Month.
My hope is that you never have to use the services of a child advocacy center, but if you should, it is important to know what they are, where they are, and how they help children and families heal from the trauma of sexual abuse.
The first child advocacy center was established in 1985 in Huntsville, Alabama. Known as the National Children’s Advocacy Center, it has served as the model to more than a thousand of other centers in the United States and abroad. The idea behind child advocacy centers is simple: a safe place where a child can be interviewed by a forensic interviewer once. That’s it—once. A child does not have to be re-traumatized by telling their story to a nurse, a doctor, the police officer, a social worker, a lawyer, a judge. Their brave voices are heard by all those people at once. Child advocacy centers work with multi-disciplinary teams, sometimes with all or most of these people housed in the same building. They may use a one-way mirror, video feed, and audio feed. This way, the child builds a relationship with the forensic interviewer and they can get answers to the questions that all these team members have.
Child advocacy centers serve as a beacon of hope for families. The staff at these centers are trained to not only investigate and interview children, but they also serve as a resource for families. They help families get the services needed to help children heal from trauma. Some child advocacy centers do even more by working in the area of prevention and community education. They may host playgroups for children at risk, provide training to the community on child sexual abuse prevention, advocate for policy change at the local, state or federal level, and may provide therapeutic services.
In San Francisco, the child advocacy center is Safe and Sound. In the Mid-Peninsula go to The Keller Center for Family Violence Intervention or the Santa Clara County Children’s Interview Center (tel: 408-277-5688). Some child advocacy centers do not advertise their location for patient privacy concerns. You can also find a center closest to you here. I encourage you to look into the center closest to you and find out about the work they do and how you can support them.