WHAT IS THE CHILDREN’S ADVOCACY CENTER?
The Children’s Advocacy Center of Highlands Community Services leverages the efforts of law enforcement, prosecutors, medical and mental health providers, social
workers, and others to provide a seamless, comprehensive system of support for child victims of sexual and physical abuse, and neglect.
WHAT SERVICES DOES THE CAC PROVIDE?
- Investigative Intervention:
The CAC provides forensic interviewing and recording in a child-friendly place, as well as recorded interview distribution to law enforcement, child protective services, and prosecutors.
- Trauma Assessments:
The CAC conducts specialized trauma assessments by referral.
- Specialized Treatment & Counseling:
The CAC offers specialized counseling designed to meet the needs of child victims of abuse, their siblings, and non-offending caregivers.
- Court Preparation:
The CAC provides court preparation and education for children and families.
WHERE IS THE CAC LOCATED?
The CAC is located in Washington County, Virginia, just outside of the Bristol city limits, adjacent to the Sugar Hollow Park Recreation area. The CAC is housed in a 150 year old restored Victorian-era home that provides approximately 5,000 square feet of office and program space. It is situated on 4.5 acres of open space, which includes a private playground, gazebo, and other outdoor therapeutic space.
WHAT IS THE CAC’S MISSION?
To guide and support child victims of neglect, sexual and severe physical abuse and their families by coordinating investigative intervention, treatment, and prosecutorial services.
WHAT IS THE CAC’S VISION?
To be the resource facilitator for best practice in the field of child abuse investigation, treatment, and prosecution.
WHAT ARE THE GOALS OF THE CAC?
- Reduce trauma to children by decreasing repeated interviewing by multiple persons.
- Promote a positive, emotional closing of the case for victims and families.
- Increase caretakers’ knowledge of community resources.
- Enhance the ability of a parent or caretaker to care for an abused child.
- Prevent further abuse through victim safety education and by removing perpetrators from the community through prosecution.
WHO IS NOMAD?
Nomad, the CAC Facility Dog, joined the CAC staff in 2014 as the result of community efforts and generous contributions.
Nomad, bred and trained by Canine Companions for Independence, puts children at ease as they describe their abuse to investigators and counselors. Sometimes, Nomad, a Labrador-Golden Retriever mix, is even allowed to be with children in court.
WHAT IS THE CHAMPIONS 4 CHILDREN CONFERENCE?
The 2016 Champions 4 Children Conference was held at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon, VA on March 15, 2016 . Our friends discovered how they play a part in preventing and protecting children in Southwest Virginia and beyond from abuse and exploitation. Clinician, advocates, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and community members had the opportunity to attend sessions based upon their personalized tracks.
The Champions 4 Children Conference is presented by the Children’s Advocacy Center of Highlands Community Services, and is dedicated to helping us better understand the collaborative power we have when we all come together as Champions 4 Children.
WHAT IS THE HISTORY OF THE CAC?
1997, April: The CAC (previously of Bristol/Washington County, VA, Inc.) was chartered as the result of over two years of work by a community task force.
1997, October: The IRS issued the CAC non-profit 501 (c) (3) status. It was the first such center in the state of Virginia!
1998, August: The CAC began providing direct counseling services to child victims of abuse and neglect in Bristol and Washington County, VA.
2014, May: The CAC acquired its facility dog, Nomad to assist children, families, and staff.
2014, September: The CAC expanded its service area to provide limited services to Smyth County as the need for services increased in Southwest Virginia.
2015, October: The CAC merged with HCS Outpatient Services for a more in-depth, wrap-around approach to services.
WHY DO WE NEED A CAC?
- Bristol, Virginia continues to have a rate of child abuse that is double the average rate across Virginia.
- Over 200 cases of abuse/neglect were opened last year at the CAC.
- In the US, 1 in 3 girls will be sexually abused before they reach age 18.
- In the US, 1 in 5 boys will be sexually abused before they reach age 18.
“By being able to come [to the CAC] to have their interview and to go through the process, it alleviates the child from having to go through that and be re-traumatized over and over again by having to retell the story.”
– Charlene Ohlinger, Child Protective Services Investigator for Bristol, VA
“I have seen these victims get stronger after coming for services; not just the victim themselves, but the family unit. I’ve seen them become more empowered as they move forward through this…They’re able to react and go about through society in a happier mode – a more confident persona, and they are empowered. They have overcome that trauma and that abuse.”
– Sharon Reed, Director of Washington County’s Victim Assistance Program
“We really rely on the CAC for some our most important interviews with children…Children are not overwhelmed because investigators are in a separate room and can talk to the interviewer with the child through walkie-talkies. We can all ask and get answered those really important questions without having a child sit face-to-face with two or three or four adults, which is really intimidating when you’re talking about something that’s already painful and traumatic.”
– Kristen McPherson, Child Protective Services Investigator with Washington County Department of Social Services
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
The CAC is a non-profit organization. Your financial support is needed and appreciated. You can also champion the cause by reporting suspected child abuse in your community, and by educating others around you.
Children’s Advocacy Center of HCS
21451 Sugar Hollow Road
Bristol, VA 24202