The child advocacy center concept was originated in 1983 by District Attorney Bud Cramer in Huntsville, Alabama. Recognizing that child victims were being re-victimized by the very system that was supposed to protect them, Cramer led efforts to establish the National Children’s Advocacy Center in Huntsville in 1985. Today, the Huntsville advocacy center serves a model and resource for a growing number of advocacy centers across the country.
In 2004, our community was made aware of the potential need for a child advocacy center in Van Zandt County. The concept was researched, the local need was assessed and community dialogue was facilitated. In 2004, a task force was formed for the purpose of laying groundwork for a center in Van Zandt County. The task force was composed of community agencies, professionals and volunteers interested in further coordinating the investigation, prosecution and treatment of child abuse for the benefit of child victims. During the following year, the task force worked to build the program’s foundation with the development of protocols, policies and procedures. The Children’s Advocacy Center of Van Zandt County became a member of the Children’s Advocacy Centers™ of Texas, Inc., in September 2005.
A 2000 square foot residential building was donated for five years. Generous volunteers in the community gave the building a new face with remodeling, furnishings, and many child friendly additions.
The Children's Advocacy Center of Van Zandt County now resides in a 4000 square foot building, located at 503 West Highway 243 in Canton, Texas. It currently houses Forensic Services (e.g., Forensic Interiews and Multi-Disciplinary Team activities), Family Advocacy Services (e.g., Victim's Compensation assistance, victims's services, and partner agency referrals, Therapeutic Services (e.g., individual and family counseling), Commmunity Education Services (e.g., community events and education, volunteer services), and business and administrative services (e.g., grant management and facility operations).
The Children’s Advocacy Center of Van Zandt County represents a remarkable collaboration and coalition of dedicated individuals and agencies. This partnership, combined with a generous outpouring of community support, has made the center a reality and children a priority.
The center joins over 70 advocacy centers in Texas and 200 advocacy centers nationwide in a growing effort to protect America’s youngest victims from re-victimization by an adult criminal justice system.
The CACVZC serves both the family and the investigation team. Our function is to serve as the bridge between the child affected by abuse and the prosecution team. This is done by facilitating a safe, child-friendly forensic interview that promotes the mental stability and healing of the child affected by abuse and that maintains the integrity of the investigation by Law Enforcement and DFPS/CPS investigators.
Once the child makes an outcry (or an outcry is made on behalf of the child), that child is referred to the CAC by Law Enforcement or DFPS/CPS. When the child enters the center, they are greeted by the Family Advocate and/or the Forensic Interviewer who begins a rapport to ease the child’s fears. The child is taken on a tour of the facility as a part of the rapport process. During this time, the child and non-offending family members are offered refreshments and seated in a comfortable family waiting room. The MDT members meet to briefly discuss the case and to allow give the Forensic Interviewer basic information regarding the case. This information guides the interview process to gain the necessary information to establish if abuse did occur and if so, to gain the pertinent information needed for prosecution of the perpetrator of the abuse.
While the Forensic Interview is in progress, the Family Advocate speaks with the non-offending family members (if applicable) to answer questions, minimize fears, and to assess family needs. The Family Advocate will provide the family with information regarding available services to help promote healing for the child and family. The child (and non-offending family members) will be referred to mental health and medical health services as necessary.
Upon the completion of the Forensic Interview, the investigation team speaks with the non-offending caregiver. If Mental Health services are offered, arrangements will be made with the Clinical to meet with the family for services at the CACVZC.
The Family Advocate, Forensic Interview, and Mental Health services are provided at no charge to the family, Law Enforcement, or DFPS/CPS.