Child Advocacy Centers
What is a Child Advocacy Center?
Based on a nationally recognized model, New Hampshire’s Child Advocacy Centers are community partnerships dedicated to pursuing the truth in child abuse cases and coordinating social services for child victims. By bringing together our State’s law enforcement, county attorneys, protective services, victim advocacy agencies and health professionals, New Hampshire’s child advocacy centers provide safe, child friendly locations for interviewing child victims, coordinating the investigative team and providing ongoing help for the victim’s recovery.
What Happened Before CACs?
In the past, the system for dealing with child victims of abuse was fragmented, adult oriented, and insensitive to the needs of children. Investigations required numerous interviews of child victims, first with parents or other adults, then with police, prosecutors, protective services and other involved parties, such as doctors and other lawyers. By the end, a typical child abuse victim would be interviewed an average of 8 times during the course of an investigation, all by people with different questioning styles and sometimes divergent agendas.
Reducing the Trauma of Child Victims
Multiple interviews increase the trauma of already frightened child victims, and are counterproductive to successful investigations and prosecutions. Child Advocacy Centers are a neutral, child friendly location where all the professionals involved in a child abuse investigation come together to conduct a single interview of the victim. All questions are asked through one trusted interviewer, a trained forensic investigator skilled at interviewing children.
What are Forensic Interviewers?
Forensic interviewers at New Hampshire’s Child Advocacy Centers are trained in a nationally based model of forensic interviewing developed by the National Children’s Advocacy Center. Forensic interviews are a first step in child abuse investigations. They produce evidence that can be used in court if an investigation leads to criminal prosecution. Properly conducted forensic interviews are effective because they’re objective, non-leading, and carefully documented. The National Children’s Alliance has shown that prosecutors have a 40% better conviction rate in child abuse cases when the victim is handled by a Child Advocacy Center.
Breaking the Cycle of Abuse
Putting sex offenders in jail is very important to us, but without strong intervention their victims can still suffer a lifetime of debilitating pain. This can include, but is not limited to, post-traumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder and substance abuse. In some cases victims will become abusers themselves. The Granite State Children’s Alliance seeks to break the cycle of abuse not only by seeking justice for child victims, but also by putting their families and them on a sustainable path to healing.