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Children, Violence, and Trauma: The Child Advocacy Center Model

Many community agencies are called to action when a child is identified as a victim. Depending on the type of incident, a child may be examined by a nurse or physician and interviewed by law enforcement officers, social workers, mental health professionals, and prosecutors. Each of these professionals plays an important role and gathers certain information in support of that role. Today, child-serving professionals throughout the country have come to recognize and appreciate the benefits of sharing information.

By sharing information, these professionals can alleviate the burden placed on children when they are asked to describe the violence repeatedly to different professionals, who often need similar information for different purposes. It can also improve the quality of investigations and case outcomes.

Child-serving professionals in many communities meet regularly as multidisciplinary teams to share information. In more than 750 communities across the country, these teams convene—and are often co-located—in child advocacy centers. Whether located in modern professional buildings, converted houses, or set-aside spaces in hospitals, prosecutors’ offices, or law enforcement agencies, child advocacy centers typically include rooms with child-friendly, age-appropriate furnishings where children are interviewed by specially trained forensic interviewers while other team members observe from a nearby room. When children are required to testify, victim advocates and other team members also know effective ways to support children and their families as they progress through the court process. The National Children’s Alliance sponsors an accreditation program for child advocacy centers to ensure they meet strict standards, and several organizations offer specialized, evidence-based training for forensic child interviewers.

The child advocacy center model of information and co-location has been adapted for a broad range of domestic violence offenses. Family justice centers around the country offer a wide range of services and support for adult victims and their children, including direct links to child advocacy centers for children who have witnessed or directly experienced violence in their homes.

Increasingly, the centers’ clientele includes young victims of sexual exploitation through pornography or prostitution. Today’s inexpensive cameras and Internet access allow for instantaneous production and worldwide distribution of child pornography. The Internet also makes it easier for predators to recruit children and teens for prostitution and sex trafficking. Nationwide, Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task forces focus multidisciplinary, multijurisdictional attention on these victims, often working with child advocacy centers and other nongovernmental organizations to ensure that these young people receive appropriate services and support.

Related Resources


American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children
Family Justice Center Alliance
Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS)
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse
National Child Protection Training Center
National Children’s Advocacy Center
National Children’s Alliance
National Crime Victim Law Institute
Native American Children’s Alliance
Polaris Project
Shared Hope International


Crimes Against Children Program, Federal Bureau of Investigation
Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program


Child and Youth Victimization Known to Police, School, and Medical Authorities
Confronting Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking of Minors in the United States
Criminal Investigations of Child Abuse: The Research Behind "Best Practices"
Guidelines for Child Advocacy Centers in Indian Country
How CACs and Multidisciplinary Team Members Can Better Serve Children and Non-Offending Caretakers
Human Trafficking of Children in the United States: A Fact Sheet for Schools
Research to Action: Sexually Exploited Minors Needs and Strengths