The east end of Los Angeles County and the east San Gabriel Valley needed a specialized service facility for child victims of crime. In response to this need, the Children’s Advocacy Center for Child Abuse Assessment and Treatment opened in July 2004.
The Children’s Advocacy Center is a multi-disciplinary non-profit agency that provides recorded forensic interviews in a child-friendly setting to children who may have been abused either physically or sexually, or children who have witnessed violence. The multi-disciplinary team consists of prosecutors, law enforcement investigators, child protection social workers, victim advocates, forensic nurses, and mental health providers. Any partner agency can request a forensic interview in any case which the referrer believes will assist the child or the case. The interviews are digitally recorded and conducted in a child-friendly and culturally-sensitive manner. Some forensic interviewers are bilingual, thus enabling children who speak another language to be interviewed without the need of an interpreter. Before the interview, the multi-disciplinary team meets to discuss the case and share information. Team members watch the interview via closed circuit TV and provide input for follow-up questioning. This approach allows each agency to realize their respective goals, yet minimizes the number of times the child must be interviewed. Recording the interview reduces inconsistent statements and often leads to case settlement which also reduces trauma to children. Children and non-offending family members are provided resources and referrals for counseling while at the CAC.
Research has validated the long-held belief that when interactions with children are age-appropriate and provided in a supportive manner, children are more likely to provide accurate and truthful information to investigators, clinicians and other professionals, which is clearly in the best interest of everyone involved in and affected by child abuse.
All agencies that are responsible for child abuse investigations are committed to the protection and best interests of every child. A lack of a multi-disciplinary approach often resulted in further victimization of the child from excessive interviews, lack of communication and coordination between agencies, and lack of specialized interviewing techniques.
The CAC now serves over 370 families per year and assists many agencies and professionals in the community with free consulting services regarding issues of abuse. The CAC is funded by private donations and grants. No child or their family is ever charged a fee and our services are offered at no cost to our multi-disciplinary partners.
In 2014 the CAC was reaccredited by the National Children’s Alliance (NCA), joining over 600 other member programs across the United States. The CAC is one of only two accredited centers in Los Angeles County.
In March, 2014, the Children’s Advocacy Center moved into a 5,600 square foot home on the Masonic Home campus in Covina located in a tranquil park-like setting. In addition to having more than twice the amount of space, the home is very welcoming for children and adults. This new location is more centrally located thereby making access more convenient to the many agencies that comprise our multidisciplinary Team. We now have two beautiful waiting rooms for children and their families, two interview rooms, two patios, a nearby playground as well as private meeting areas for team members to discuss cases.
In a further effort to minimize trauma to children, the CAC now uses therapy dogs to greet and wait with children and their families. Therapy dogs empower victims and provide emotional support. There is a body of scientific evidence proving dogs are the one animal that impacts our blood pressure and other health indicators in a positive way. Minimizing stress for victims and their families is consistent with our mission. Therapy dogs are routinely used at hospitals and recently started working at airports to alleviate stress for travelers. The CAC has taken a leadership role in Los Angeles and is the first agency to start this kind of program by entering into a partnership with The Pet Prescription TEAM who will provide the volunteer handlers and therapy dogs. http://www.petprescriptionteam.com/
In April 2015, the CAC received a Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors commendation for the services we provide to abused children.
The CAC is constantly striving to implement research based, best practices in the services we provide, increase the number of children and families that we serve and help children return to the joys of childhood and the promise of a full, successful life — free of abuse.