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Do Children's Advocacy Centers Improve Families' Experiences of Child Sexual Abuse Investigations?

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2007
17 pages
The study examined whether the implementation of Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs) improved caregivers’ and children’s satisfaction with investigations.
The findings provided evidence that CACs might successfully improve the experience of nonoffending caregivers during investigations of sexual abuse. Because of the support provided by investigators, CAC caregivers were more satisfied with the investigation and interview process than those in the comparison sample; caregivers reported higher rates of satisfaction when their case was investigated through a CAC, compared to cases investigated in communities without a CAC, as well as a greater sense of comfort and safety during interviews. Still a small minority of children reported substantial dissatisfaction. Caregiver satisfaction measured by the Investigation Satisfaction Scale (ISS) was moderately high across both CAC and comparison samples, suggesting that bungled, insensitive investigations do not appear to be a widespread problem; instead, scores on the survey indicated that respondents were more satisfied. Specifically, caregivers’ satisfaction scores on the Investigator Response subscale were greater when investigators believed the allegations were valid and when cases involving Child Protective Services (CPS) were substantiated by that agency. Caregivers’ reflected a greater satisfaction rating on the Interview Experience subscale when a medical exam was provided, suggesting the possibility that medical professionals involved early in the investigation might offer a more patient-based and sensitive approach to interviews. Caregivers were less satisfied with the investigation when they rated their child as having greater problems with anxiety and depressive symptoms. Low satisfaction ratings might reflect poor investigations that distress children, or parents holding professionals accountable for their children’s mental health problems, or even the caregivers’ own distress. Unfortunately, there was no substantial evidence found showing that CACs improved children’s experience with investigations which is a cornerstone of the model; the CAC model promotes a reduction in the number of interviews to ease the investigation burden on children. Limitations of the study and suggestions for future research are detailed. Tables, references, appendices

Date Published: October 1, 2007