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November 2008Vol. 9, No. 9Evaluating Children's Advocacy Centers

Children's Advocacy Centers (CACs) were developed to improve the investigative process and minimize trauma to victims of abuse, especially sexual abuse, through a better coordination of multidisciplinary services in centralized, child-friendly environments. In a recent report published in the Juvenile Justice Bulletin, researchers at the University of New Hampshire evaluated the effectiveness of CACs in responding to cases of child sexual abuse to determine whether research supports CACs' growing popularity.

Data from more than 1,000 cases of sexual abuse were collected in four CACs and comparison communities that used traditional child protective services investigation models. Research findings showed that communities with CACs had:

  • Greater law enforcement involvement
  • More evidence of coordinated investigations
  • Better child access to medical exams
  • Higher rates of referrals to child mental health services
  • Greater caregiver satisfaction with the investigative process

While more studies are needed to confirm these findings, researchers suggest that CACs play an essential role in improving the experience of children and families while ensuring the delivery of needed services and the prosecution of offenders.

"Evaluating Children's Advocacy Centers' Response to Child Sexual Abuse," by Theodore P. Cross et al., appeared in the Juvenile Justice Bulletin, August 2008, and is available online: (307 - KB)