Children’s Advocacy Center
The Children’s Advocacy Center Model
The CAC (Child Advocacy Center) is an interview facility that law enforcement or child protective services use when they believe a child has experienced abuse or may have witnessed a traumatic event. The CAC is a safe, neutral environment—where the child tells about their experience to a trained interviewer who understands child development and to ask questions in a way that does not not re-traumatize the child. The CAC works with an MDT, a team that includes medical professionals, law enforcement, mental health, prosecution, child protective services, victim advocacy, and other professionals who make decisions together about how to help the child based on the interview. The CAC offers referrals for therapy and referrals for forensic medical exams, plus victim advocacy, case management, and other services. This is called the multidisciplinary team (MDT) response and is a core part of the work of CACs.
What does the Children’s Advocacy Center offer to children and their families?
An appropriate place…
- In which child victims feel comfortable describing events in the presence of all agencies involved;
- A comfortable waiting room where the family can relax before and after the forensic interview;
- An interview room that is painted in a warm, soothing color and has appropriate sized furniture;
- Where trained professionals can work together to improve the safety and well-being of children through intervention in their communities.
A specially trained interviewer…
- Who has completed extensive training in how to talk to children about allegations of abuse that is developmentally appropriate and non-leading;
- Who will have access to Law Enforcement and Child Protective Services during the interview.Video recording capabilities…
- Allowing the interview to be recorded so that the child’s exact statement is available to the investigators and there is no question as to what the child reported;
- Allowing the investigators to watch the interview from another room to reduce the number of times children need to tell and enabling the child to describe the events that have occurred to one professional, instead of multiple adults in the room.
An experienced Family Advocate…
- Who will thoroughly explain to the family what a forensic interview is and what to expect during the investigative process; To facilitate counseling services for the child and family members in order to start the healing process and overcome the trauma of the abusive events;
- Who will educate families about child abuse and steps they can take to support not only the child, but themselves, as well.
Our center solely exists to provide a CHILD FOCUSED approach to the investigation of abuse allegations, meaning we want to reduce as much stress as possible for you and your child. To help reduce stress, we use a team approach during the investigation of allegations of child abuse, this team is made up of professionals who are experts in their fields, and work together to share resources and minimize trauma to children. Members of the team and what they do:
- Detective–Investigates the allegations and presents the evidence to the Commonwealth’s Attorney to decide if any laws have been broken and what criminal charges may be filed.
- CPS Worker–Investigates what happened to make sure your child is safe. They will also assist you with referrals for services.
- Forensic Interviewer-Performs the forensic interview of your child in a developmentally sensitive and child friendly manner.
- Family Advocates–Works closely with the team and is available to assist you with questions and concerns you have regarding the case, as well as accompaniment to court proceedings.. They will also assist you with referrals for services and provide support throughout the duration of your case.
- Commonwealth’s Attorney Office–Reviews and decides whether to prosecute the case. The Commonwealth’s Attorney is the lawyer who will prosecute the case on behalf of your child.
- Mental Health Services–Provides specialized trauma-focused therapy services for children and families impacted by abuse. These services are a critical piece of the healing process.
- Forensic Nurse Examiner–Provides forensic medical exams and gathers evidence. These evaluations are conducted by specially trained medical professionals.
ELVIS: Our CAC Facility Dog
In November 2014, Children’s Trust received a wonderful addition to the staff! When appropriate, Elvis, an ADI certified facility dog, is available to sit with children during the forensic interview process. Elvis provides comfort and gentle reassurance, making it easier for children to share their experiences. His presence reduces anxiety, offers unconditional acceptance and provides a bridge between our commitment to ensure a child’s well-being and our desire to gather information. To learn more about Facility Dogs, visit: Courthouse Dogs website.
- Roanoke Office (at The Jefferson Center: 541 Luck Ave Suite 230 Roanoke 24016) serves Roanoke City, Salem, Roanoke County, Botetourt, and Vinton.
- Christiansburg Office (90 College St.. Christiansburg VA 24073) serves Montgomery County, Christiansburg, Blacksburg, Radford, Pulaski
- Bedford office (1085 Vista Park Drive, Forest VA 24551) serves Town of Bedford and Bedford County
CAC Program Staff
Christina Rouse, MSW CAC Program Director and Lead Forensic Interviewer
Beth Eisenzimmer, Family Advocate Coordinator
Stephanie Robinson, Family Advocate
Shawna Franklin, Forensic Interviewer
Susan Shutt, Family Advocate-Bedford Office
Sarah Mahle, Forensic Interviewer-Bedford Office
Emily Simpson, NRV coordinator, Forensic Interviewer
Ellen Wood, Forensic Interviewer/Family Advocate- NRV office
Karen Miller, Family Advocate-NRV office
Elvis, Facility Dog
The CAC is an accredited member of the National Children’s Alliance, and the state chapter of CACs, Children’s Advocacy Centers of Virginia. To learn more about the National Children’s Alliance and their accreditation standards, visit their website here.