To advocate for the needs of children and families in our communities by providing a neutral, child-focused location that facilitates a collaborative, trauma-informed multidisciplinary approach to the prevention, identification, investigation, prosecution, and treatment of all reports of child maltreatment.
A task force was formed in early 2020 at the direction of Randolph County Prosecutor David Daly that worked to secure funding and a location for the county’s first child advocacy center. The Children’s Advocacy Center of Randolph County, a non-profit corporation, was formed and worked diligently to ensure that Randolph County joined 90 others in the state with child advocacy center coverage.
To best understand what a child advocacy center does, it is important to understand what child victims face without one. Without a CAC, children often end up having to share the details of their abuse repeatedly to law enforcement, the Department of Child Services, medical and mental health care providers, judges, and so on. They are often questioned about their traumatic experience in police stations and other public offices, where they may feel as if they are in trouble or have done something wrong. Often, without a CAC, children are questioned by well-meaning but untrained individuals who may ask questions in a manner that can inadvertently hinder the ability to prosecute the offender.
Prior to the development of The Children’s Advocacy Center of Randolph County, this is what our local Randolph County child victims were facing.
The CAC coordinates a multi-disciplinary team (MDT) approach starting at the initial disclosure or suspicion of child maltreatment. The MDT includes law enforcement, the Department of Child Services, the prosecutor’s office, medical and mental health care professionals, and victim advocacy. By bringing all the required disciplines together from the very beginning for a collaborative investigative process, there is less trauma to the child and better outcomes for the case.
Another important role of the CAC is providing neutral, professional forensic interviews. As the defined by the U.S. Department of Justice, “a forensic interview of a child is a developmentally sensitive and logically sound method of gathering factual information regarding allegations of abuse or exposure to violence. The interview in conducted by a competently trained, neutral professional utilizing research and practice-informed techniques as part of a larger investigative process.”
Indiana, by the director of the Attorney General’s Office, utilizes the ChildFirst Forensic Interview Protocol. ChildFirst interviewers must complete a rigorous 40-hour training program, as well as successfully complete a written and practicum evaluation. The curriculum includes child development, memory and suggestibility, testifying in court, state and federal legal issues, and preparing children for court. Professional forensic interviews are also required meet yearly requirements for peer review and continuous education.
Historically, Randolph County child victims were not receiving the response or standard of care they deserved, and the Children’s Advocacy Center of Randolph County set out to fix that. Through the procurement of state and federal grants, as well as a successful local fundraising campaign, the CAC of Randolph County was able to open their doors in November of 2020.
Opening the physical location is just the first step in creating better responses and outcomes to child maltreatment cases here in Randolph County.
The CAC will be working diligently to:
· ensure all members of the county's multidisciplinary team have adequate and on-going training.
· develop outcome measurements and conduct ongoing case tracking and review to ensure that improvements in the response to reports of child maltreatment are truly being made.
· develop a robust community education program to bring research and evidence-based prevention education programming to all county schools, as well as adults in the communit.