Multidisciplinary Team – CACs must facilitate a multidisciplinary team comprised of the core disciplines – law enforcement, child protection services (DCF), prosecution, medical, mental health, victim advocacy, CAC staff – that have executed a signed agreement that commits each agency to work within a team-developed written protocol for the handling of child abuse cases in their community.
Cultural Competency and Diversity – CACs must meet the needs of all children and families throughout the intervention process. Competency is addressed through a written cultural competency plan, policies and procedures, physical environments, training for team members and case discussions to ensure there are provisions for clients of all cultures throughout investigation, medical and follow-up services.
Forensic Interviews – CACs utilize specially trained professionals to conduct forensic (investigative) interviews of children that are neutral, legally sound and non-duplicative. The purpose of the interview is to obtain factual, accurate details regarding the abuse allegation in a manner that minimizes the trauma to the victim. Investigative team members observe and may provide input into the interview, thus reducing the number of times a child must explain the details of his/her abuse.
Victim Support & Advocacy – CACs must designate a victim advocate for each family to provide crisis intervention, education about the investigation and legal process, assessment and identification of needed community resources and linkages to medical and mental health services. Advocates provide on-going support to children and their families throughout the investigation and criminal justice process and ensure services are in place to support the child’s family in resolving the abuse crisis.
Medical Evaluations – CACs must provide children specialized medical evaluations, either on-site or through an affiliation with a local partner. Providers of medical exams must have training and continuing education in pediatrics and child abuse evaluation. The purpose of the medical evaluation is to assess the child’s overall health, collect physical evidence (if present); identify and treat any injury or infection and reassure the child and family about any concerns related to the child’s physical health.
Mental Health – CACs must provide children specialized, trauma-focused mental health treatment either on-site or through affiliation agreements with a local partner. Timely therapeutic intervention is critical to facilitate the child’s healing from trauma. Mental health providers must have training and continuing education in child abuse and trauma treatment.
Case Review – CACs must coordinate routine (no less than once a month) case review sessions engaging all disciplines in facilitated discussion and information sharing regarding the investigation, case status and services needed by the child and family. Case review maximizes information-sharing among all parties and promotes better decision-making based on the involvement and expertise of many disciplines.
Case Tracking – CACs must maintain a case tracking system to collect and report client demographics, referrals made to families and to track case outcomes including DCF disposition and criminal justice outcomes. The CAC’s case tracking system becomes a repository of case information that minimizes cases “falling through the cracks.”
Organizational Capacity – CACs must maintain organizational capacity as a private, nonprofit incorporated agency or governmental entity and employ designated staff to manage CAC operations, secure adequate funding to support CAC services, demonstrate sound administrative practices and have policies in place to carefully screen and the train organization’s employees and volunteers.
Child-Focused Setting – CACs must maintain warm, welcoming physical environments as the primary location for children to receive services including forensic interviews and advocacy. Each CAC facility is designed for children of all ages and cultures and includes interview and observation rooms, conference areas for team and family meetings and family-friendly waiting areas. CAC locations may include refurbished houses, custom-built facilities or separate, designated, contiguous space within an existing structure.