Backgrounder: Child Advocacy Centres

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Child Advocacy Centres (CAC) are child-focused centres that coordinate the investigation, prosecution, and treatment of child abuse while helping abused children. They adopt a seamless and collaborative approach to addressing the needs of child and youth victims of crime. These centres seek to minimize system-induced trauma by providing a child-friendly setting for a young victim and his or her family.

Child Advocacy Centres bring together a multi-disciplinary team of police, child protection workers, medical services, mental health services, and victim services. Professional services offered by CACs include coordinated forensic interviews, examination of the child by a medical professional, victim advocacy, including court preparation and support, trauma assessment and counseling.

Child Advocacy Centres help children and their families navigate the justice system in a number of ways. For example, CACs provide a child or youth with a safe and comfortable environment in which to be interviewed by criminal justice professionals and seek to reduce the number of interviews and questions directed at a child, thereby minimizing system-induced trauma. They 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 and to increased access to services for young victims and their families or caregivers.

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 interviewing process.

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Department of Justice Canada
August 2013