How the CAC Model Works

What Is a CAC?

To understand what a Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) is, you must understand what children face without one. Without a CAC, the child may end up having to tell the worst story of his or her life over and over again, to doctors, cops, lawyers, therapists, investigators, judges, and others. They may have to talk about that traumatic experience in a police station where they think they might be in trouble, or may be asked the wrong questions by a well-meaning teacher or other adult that could hurt the case against the abuser.

A graphic describing the CAC model. On the left side, titled "Without CACs," a boy and girl icon are surrounded by a confusing array of paths to icons representing victims' services: a cross for medical, a brain for mental health, a badge for law enforcement, a heart for victim advocacy, scales for criminal justice and prosecution, and a child's hand in an adult's hand representing the help of a CAC. Without CACs, children and families are left to seek these services on their own, which can be confusing and ultimately unsuccessful. On the right, titled "With CACs," the same icons are present, but these victims' services icons are aligned with arrows pointing toward the boy and girl, encircled by a ring representing the coordination of the CAC model. This represents the CAC model's promise to coordinate and bring these crucial services directly to children.

When police or child protective services believe a child is being abused, the child is brought to the CAC—a safe, child-focused environment—by a caregiver or other “safe” adult. At the CAC, the child tells their story once to a trained interviewer who knows the right questions to ask in a way that does not not retraumatize the child. Then, a team that includes medical professionals, law enforcement, mental health, prosecution, child protective services, victim advocacy, and other professionals make decisions together about how to help the child based on the interview. CACs offer therapy and medical exams, plus courtroom preparation, victim advocacy, case management, and other services. This is called the multidisciplinary team (MDT) response and is a core part of the work of CACs.

What Is the National Children’s Alliance?

NCA is the national association and accrediting body for a network of more than 850 Children’s Advocacy Centers—CACs. We provide support, advocacy, quality assurance, and national leadership for CACs, all to help support the important work that CACs do in communities across the country. CACs provide a coordinated, evidence-based response to children who have been abused in all 50 states.

The Process of a CAC and Its Partners

For more detail, see this flowchart of how children and families go through the CAC investigation and intervention process and case decisions are made.