Backgrounder: Child Advocacy Centres

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A Child Advocacy Centre (CAC) adopts a seamless, coordinated and collaborative approach to addressing the needs of child and youth victims of crime.  A CAC seeks to minimize system-induced trauma by providing a child-friendly setting for a young victim or witness and his or her family. 

Professional services offered by CACs include coordinated forensic interviews, examination of the child by a medical professional, victim advocacy and trauma counselling.  One goal of a CAC is to minimize the number of interviews and questions directed at a child, thereby minimizing any additional system-induced trauma.  

CACs help children and their families navigate the justice system in a number of ways.  These include providing a child or youth with a safe and comfortable environment in which to be interviewed by criminal justice professionals and minimizing the number of interviews. CACs may also provide education and training to justice professionals on best practices for interviewing child victims and witnesses.  As an example, interviews recorded by video are an effective method for gathering valuable information that can help both the young victim and the justice system.  Ultimately CACs lead to better communication between agencies supporting young victims.  

It has been shown that investigations conducted by CACs are cost effective and can expedite decision making by Crown Prosecutors laying criminal charges.  Parents whose children receive services from CACs are more satisfied with the investigation process and interview procedures, and those children who attend CACs are generally satisfied with the investigation and are more likely to state they were not scared during the forensic process. 

A CAC is designed to support a child’s healing and assist them in recovering from the severe stress and trauma of abuse.  CACs have also been shown to increase collaboration between the agencies charged with protecting children and youth and criminal justice agencies responsible for investigating and prosecuting criminal activity. 

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Government of Canada
August 2012