CACs are locations within a community where abused children and their non-offending family members can go following a report of sexual abuse. These local centers provide:
- child forensic interview
- information and education
- referrals to medical exams and mental health support
- ongoing support to the child and family for the life of the case
CACs create a mentally and physically safe environment for children. They also provide a place where the multidisciplinary team (MDT) can convene, so the child does not have to go to see each professional separately. This reduces the chance of additional trauma and the number of interviews or disclosures the child must give, reducing potential evidence collection errors and increasing the chance of successful prosecution.
Statistics show that investigations at a CAC were less expensive and resulted in a more thorough investigation than traditional investigations. According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention:
- Overall, communities with CACs showed more evidence of coordinated investigation than comparison communities.
- The percentage of children who had medical examinations was significantly greater (27%) in CACs than in comparison communities.
- On a per case basis, traditional investigations were 36% more expensive than those conducted at CACs (National Children’s Advocacy Center).
National Children’s Alliance accreditation is important. Accreditation means a child who goes to an accredited CAC in Montana gets the same standard of services they would get anywhere in the United States.
Nationally accredited centers meet ten standards of performance set by the National Children’s Alliance.
- In 2007, Montana had 5 Children’s Advocacy Centers, one of which was accredited by the National Children’s Alliance.
- In 2010, Montana had a total of 10 Children’s Advocacy Centers, four of which are accredited by the National Children’s Alliance.
Children’s Alliance of Montana
Together, the network of CACs and MDTs comprise the Children’s Alliance of Montana. As the state chapter of the National Children’s Alliance, the group’s goals are to:
- further the development of the chapter and support the development of CACs and MDTs throughout the state;
- provide technical assistance and training to the CACs and MDTs in Montana.