State Laws Defining CACs

An NCA Policy Brief


State statutes that clearly define Children’s Advocacy Centers and their role in the response to allegations of criminal child abuse greatly enhance the ability for the model to develop services, expand coverage and pursue additional resources, particularly state funding. Chapters and CACs in states without so-called defining legislation should seek to work with legislative allies to enact it.

Defining Legislation Can Gear-shaped bullet Protect the integrity of the CAC model Gear-shaped bullet Provide assurance to victims and families Gear-shaped bullet Maintain standards that provide assurances to the legal system Gear-shaped bullet Be foundational to the pursuit of funding Gear-shaped bullet Give policymakers a model to work with when crafting child abuse laws Defining Legislation Should Gear-shaped bullet Require CACs to meet national accreditation standards Gear-shaped bullet Designate CACs as the preferred response to allegations of abuse Gear-shaped bullet Encourage greater CAC coverage Gear-shaped bullet Support wrap-around services Gear-shaped bullet Provide for immunity from civil liability for CAC employees

At present, at least 34 states have adopted defining legislation to varying degrees. Definitions range from a short paragraph as part of a larger child abuse statute, to an entire code section or chapter mandating the use of CACs, defining requirements, and in some instances, establishing a funding formula for the allocation of state funds.

Which states have defining legislation for CACs?

Map of CACs with and without Defining Legislation

Additional Reasons to Define CACs in State Statute

Here are a few examples of ways that federal defining legislation has helped CACs—imagine what’s possible at the state level, which provides the largest share of all funding for CACs nationally.

 

#1 The National Children’s Alliance has built a tremendous network of support at the Congressional level.  As a result, CACs are being written into federal bills, rules and guidelines, many of which include federal appropriations.
#2 Congress has identified CACs as the preferred model for the pursuit of justice and healing for child victims of human trafficking, mainly child sex trafficking.  Any federal efforts in this area are likely to contain a CAC component.
#3 The National Children’s Alliance has developed and signed an MOU with the FBI that allows the FBI to use the services and/or facilities of a local CAC in their investigations.  A statutory definition, that includes rigorous standards, provides quality assurances to the FBI.
#4 The National Children’s Alliance, at the request of Congress, is working with the Department of Defense to develop protocols that will promote the use of CACs as the preferred response to allegations of abuse that occur on military bases. Congress has included $1 million in the Federal Budget to develop a pilot project to coordinate these efforts.
#5 The federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Victims’ Assistance Grants made available to the states from the Crime Victims’ Fund have increased significantly in recent years.  A rule regarding VOCA Victims’ Assistance grants recently adopted by the Department of Justice specifically references the use of CACs for forensic interviews as an eligible expense.
#6 Congress recently received a report from the Commission to End Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities (CECANF) which highlighted the need for a multi-system approach. CACs are and will continue to be a key component in efforts to prevent child abuse fatalities.

Next Steps

State statutes that define, promote, and/or require the use of the CAC model are foundational to the pursuit of state funding and clearly contribute to the success and long-term viability of this proven approach to providing justice and healing to victims of child abuse.

States should prioritize advocacy efforts to codify a comprehensive definition of CACs in state law.

States with definitions should explore opportunities to strengthen language, requirements and protections.

States should leverage statutory definitions to secure additional resources.

To develop a customized strategic plan for the pursuit of defining legislation, state Chapters can contact the NCA Government Affairs Department. Email Will Laird at wlaird@nca-online.org to start your plan now.