National Initiatives

In its role leading the Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) movement, National Children’s Alliance (NCA) continues to be at the forefront of the national and international conversation on child abuse. As the national association and accrediting body for CACs, NCA serves as a voice for the movement before lawmakers, funders, and other decision-makers, leads initiatives that advance and support the CAC mission to provide healing and justice for child victims of abuse, and ensures quality care for the children and families our members serve.

Beyond our focus on continually improving the CAC model and expanding access to CACs for children and families, NCA is also involved in many national initiatives to improve our response to and treatment of child abuse victims.

Healing children and families

Expanding mental health treatments that work

NCA is working with the Yale Child Study Center, funders, State Chapters, and local CACs in the South to implement the Child and Family Traumatic Stress Intervention (CFTSI), a key evidence-based therapy that helps child victims of abuse overcome PTSD symptoms. This project trains staff of specific CACs in select states to deliver CFTSI and supports CACs in using it. The project provides mental health services to child abuse victims and non-offending caregivers, targeted to reducing trauma symptoms so that children can function better at home and go to school ready to learn. NCA is currently seeking to expand this project to other states.

To learn more about all our mental health projects under the Thriving Kids Initiative, see our full report.

Improving quality mental health care at CACs

NCA and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network have created a rich resource for CAC directors on providing quality mental health services for children and families. The CAC Directors’ Guide to Quality Mental Healthcare includes 10 training modules and other resources CAC directors need to meaningfully address NCA’s accreditation standard for mental health. Modules include:

  • Linkage agreements;
  • Mental health providers’ role on the multidisciplinary team;
  • Family engagement;
  • Screening for trauma, trauma-informed assessment, and treatment planning;
  • Case management;
  • Supervision;
  • Implementation of an evidence-based treatment;
  • Secondary traumatic stress, and;
  • Monitoring mental health program quality.

Addressing youth with problematic sexual behaviors, their victims, and families

In some 20-25% of all CAC-involved cases, a youth or child has acted out against another child sexually. Research shows that youth with problematic sexual behaviors (PSBs) can often receive treatment within their communities, and when evidence-based treatment is provided, the future offense rate is low. CACs are well-positioned within communities to serve these youth, as well as their victims and families.

The NCA-led Youth with Problematic Sexual Behaviors Collaborative Work Group and the National Center on the Sexual Behavior of Youth (NCSBY) released a first-of-its-kind video training series for professionals working with this population and their families in January 2017. Fact sheets, also released in January 2017, were developed specifically for CACs, child-serving agencies, and caregivers. These turn-key, informational, and training resources will provide CACs, child-serving agencies, child welfare professionals, and caregivers across the U.S. with the effective knowledge and tools to recognize and address youth and children with PSBs and deliver PSB-focused prevention and evidence-based treatment models in their own communities.

Assessing trauma to improve treatment outcomes

NCA created a training program to develop knowledge and improve skills among mental health professionals on the use of evidence-based assessments (EBA).  This project, which has been successfully implemented in four states, helps abused children by using EBAs to inform mental health treatment by targeting their particular trauma symptoms, thereby, improving treatment outcomes. The goal of the project is to expand EBAs to as many states as possible, ultimately benefiting thousands of abused children. The project includes a train-the-trainer component that equips a sub-group of participant clinicians with the tools necessary to train future cohorts of clinicians.  So far, the project has provided for the training of 270 mental health professionals and has demonstrated the values of EBA over clinical judgment alone; the benefit of good psychometric qualities; and the practicality of using evidence-based systems (EBS) instruments.

Providing Justice for Victims

Serving Children Alongside the FBI

NCA and its Accredited Member Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs) entered into a partnership with the FBI in 2015 to ensure that all children who need an evidence-based intervention that helps them heal from abuse have access to the services of a Children’s Advocacy Center. This partnership also ensures that our law enforcement partners have the resources they need to investigate and prosecute federal child abuse cases. Our Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the FBI enables us to offer our intervention model to children victimized in federal cases as well as state and local cases. Access an interactive map of CACs working with the FBI

Serving Victims of Child Pornography

NCA will competitively award $1.6 million in federal funds to local CACs for programs to serve the victims of child pornography in 2017. Local CACs will develop programs using this funding to help provide healing and justice for this population and to assist authorities in holding offenders accountable.

Serving Trafficked and Sexually Exploited Children

NCA created and maintains an online toolkit including resources and video trainings to break the silence and bring hope for Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC)—children who often go unidentified and are underserved. The video training series provides valuable information on research, prevalence, screening and identification, promising interventions and treatments, and highlights CAC success stories, as well as provides information on how CACs can begin serving these children. See this resource on NCA Engage

Strengthening the CAC Movement

Promoting Efficacy and Funding Sustainability in CACs

CACs now represent nearly half a billion dollars in services that help child victims and their families after abuse. But every CAC is different, and finds resources to support their work differently. In its commitment to supporting CACs in their quest for funding sustainability and improved practice, NCA took the most comprehensive look ever at the CAC movement: Snapshot 2017: Advocacy, Efficacy and Funding in CACs. This study provides valuable data, analysis and recommendations to assist both funding organizations and stakeholders working in the child abuse prevention and intervention space to identify the factors and characteristics affecting high-performing Children’s Advocacy Centers and network models across the U.S.

National Child Abuse Prevention Month

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month—a time for communities across the nation to bring attention to the issue of child abuse and how we as a society must support child victims of abuse. National Children’s Alliance and its more than 800 members across the country participate in special events and activities each April that shed a light on the important work being done each day to respond to and prevent child abuse and neglect. Learn more:

Looking Ahead

NCA will continue to work on national initiatives, with the following goals:

  • Expansion of mental health services to rural families in Utah in partnership with Cambia Health
  • Training more than 1,000 clinicians on the use of evidence-based mental health assessments in partnership with Baylor University

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