Nationwide: “A children’s advocacy center is a child-focused, facility-based program in which representatives from many disciplines, including law enforcement, child protection, prosecution, mental health, medical and victim advocacy, child advocacy, work together to conduct interviews and make team decisions about investigation, treatment, management and prosecution of child abuse.

Child abuse and neglect are a major problem – and a major concern – for communities throughout the United States. We all know that the problem exists. The real question becomes ‘What happens to a child victim once he or she discloses?’

Often, agency personnel from law enforcement, child protective services, prosecution, medical, victim advocacy and mental health services will respond to child abuse cases. Traditionally, each agency or professional has a different role in the investigation and intervention process. Sometimes, their efforts to fulfill these roles will result in multiple interviews of the victim – and in re-traumatizing the victim they are seeking to assist.

In the past, there was no mechanism for coordinating these services. In 1985, however, a quiet revolution took place with the establishment of the first children’s advocacy center in Huntsville, Alabama. Now, instead of the child victim navigating a difficult and confusing system of multiple, repetitive interviews, the system could be brought to the child. Children’s advocacy centers are modeled on the simple but powerful concept of coordination between community agencies and professionals involved in the intervention system.

From that first center in Huntsville, a national movement was created. Today, there are nearly 700 children’s advocacy centers nationwide, and more on the way. nationalchildrensalliance.org

Midland County: Established by concerned community members in 1979 as the Midland County Child Protection Council (MCCPC), our board includes a wide range of community volunteers, including representatives from law enforcement, the prosecuting attorney’s office, family service organizations, education, and other government agencies. In 2007, MCCPC established the Midland County Forensic Interview Program, modeled after the national model implemented in Huntsville, Alabama. The center has done business as Safe & Sound Child Advocacy Center ever since.

Safe & Sound Child Advocacy Center serves to protect and assist child victims (age 17 & under) of suspected physical or sexual abuse. It also serves their non-offending family members. At the Center, an experienced team of professionals come together to respond to reports of suspected child abuse. This Multidisciplinary Team consists of a Forensic Interviewer, a Case Coordinator, Law Enforcement Officers, Children’s Protective Services Case Workers, Prosecuting Attorneys, and medical and mental health professionals.

More on Safe & Sound’s Forensic Interview Program…