Journal article

A national survey of characteristics of child advocacy centers in the United States: Do the flagship models match those in broader practice?

Child abuse Child sexual abuse Child protection United States of America

Child Advocacy Centers (CAC) emphasize developing effective cross-agency collaborations between workers involved in serious abuse investigations to foster improvements in agency outcomes, and to minimize distress, confusion and uncertainty for children and families. This study examined the characteristics of CACs, whether models in practice match the predominant model presented in the research literature. Directors of CACs in the United States that were members of the National Children’s Alliance (NCA) mailing list (n = 361) completed an online survey in 2016. While some core characteristics were ubiquitous across CACs, the data suggests that different types of CACs exist defined by characteristics that are not prescribed under NCA principles, but which are arguably relevant to the quality of the response. From the results of a cluster analysis, the researchers propose a typology of CACs that reflects the development and integration of centers: (a) core CAC services (i.e. interviewing & cross-agency case review); (b) an aggregator of external services, and (c) a more centralized full-service CAC. Further research is needed to understand how these variations may impact practice and outcomes; this is particularly important considering many CACs do not match the full-service models most commonly examined in the research literature, which limits the degree to which these findings apply to CACs generally. This article proposes further research framed by the need to better understand how different parts of the response impact on outcomes for children and families affected by abuse.

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