Child Advocacy Center

Child Advocacy Center

Victoria Isaacson, Samantha Ainsworth
Copyright: © 2023 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-5097-0.ch008
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The nature of a visit to a child advocacy center (CAC) following an allegation of child abuse has the potential to be challenging for children and their non-offending caregiver for a variety of reasons. Within a CAC, Certified Child Life Specialists are able to call upon their unique skill set to support children throughout the many elements of a forensic evaluation process. In an effort to reduce anxiety, enhance coping, and provide developmentally appropriate play and education opportunities for children in this setting, child life specialists serve as integral members of the multidisciplinary team (MDT). In their active role, child life specialists are able to collaborate with community MDT members to creatively and effectively support children throughout the forensic evaluation process. The need for child life involvement in CACs and during the investigative forensic evaluation process is highly valuable when reflecting on the benefit and overall experience for children and their families.
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Community Response To Child Abuse Allegations

Although each state’s definition of child abuse may vary, federal legislation informs these definitions. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Children’s Bureau (2022) summarizes the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act to describe child abuse as “any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker, which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation,” or sex trafficking of a child (p. 17). Child sexual abuse is defined as sexual activity with a child by an adult, adolescent or older child (Prevent Child Abuse America, n.d.). About 90 percent of child victims know their abuser, but not all perpetrators are in a caretaking role. There are times the perpetrator is also a minor who may be older and more powerful than the victim (Finkelhor, 2012). Additionally, sexual abuse can involve both contact and non-contact incidents. Exposure to pornography and communication in a sexual manner online is also considered child abuse.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Non-Offending Caregiver: An adult who is responsible for the care and supervision of a child victim of abuse. This individual is also not the alleged perpetrator under investigation and may accompany a child to the evaluation.

Forensic Interview: A neutral discussion that takes place between a child and a trained forensic interviewer to elicit details about an event the child experienced or witnessed.

Sexually Transmitted Infection: A disease that spreads from person to person through sexual contact.

Colposcope: Specialized medical equipment used to examine and document the anogenital areas of the body if necessary.

Forensic Medical Exam: A non-urgent physical evaluation that takes place as part of a child abuse investigation to assess overall health and potential injury.

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