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Evaluating Children's Advocacy Centers' Response to Child Sexual Abuse

NCJ Number
Date Published
August 2008
12 pages
This report presents an overview of a four-site evaluation of Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs), which were established to provide a sensitive environment for child sexual abuse victims and other child-maltreatment victims, as well as their families, in the course of investigating their cases.
The evaluation found that cases investigated by CACs demonstrated several advantages over other structures for managing child sexual abuse cases. The multiagency investigations of CACs were more likely to be coordinated effectively and efficiently and to involve the police. In cases managed by CACs, children were more likely to receive referrals for forensic medical evaluations and mental health services. Nonabusive caregivers in CAC cases reported a higher average level of satisfaction, both with child interviewing and with the investigation as a whole. Children tended to report feeling less scared during CAC interviews. There was no clear evidence, however, that CACs were more effective than other case-management structures in the following areas: achieving the alleged child victim’s disclosure of the abuse in a forensic interview; filing charges against a suspect; gaining offender confessions; and gaining convictions. The evaluation offered several recommendations for improving the effectiveness of CACs. First, when promoting their programs, CACs should emphasize their skills in improving coordination, facilitating services, and working with families. Second, CAC could take the lead in establishing benchmarks for medical services. Third, CACs should do better in tracking service referrals and increasing access to mental health services. Fourth, CACs should address complaints from children and caregivers. The four CACs selected for evaluation were among the most experienced and long-standing CACs in the country. The evaluation collected three types of data: case file data; data from interviews with parents and children (those age 8 and older); and descriptive, site-level data. 1 table and 29 references

Date Published: August 1, 2008