Families with children who have been sexually abused often must face long legal processes, tell their stories multiple times to different providers, and wait for weeks or months to be connected to appropriate mental health services.
Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center’s (CCAC) coordinated approach to child sexual abuse investigations minimizes additional trauma caused by these daunting bureaucratic processes. In addition to its own staff, CCAC also houses personnel from the Chicago Police Department, Cook County State’s Attorney, Department of Children and Family Services and Cook county Bureau of Health Services. CCAC coordinates the activities of these agencies and assigns a staff advocate to each child and family to assess needs, provide emotional support and crisis counseling, and serve as a liaison between the family, investigators, social services and mental health agencies.
CCAC is also the lead agency for the Providing Access Toward Hope and Healing (PATHH) collaborative, which coordinates mental health services for sexually-abused children and non-offending caregivers through a centralized system at 15 agencies. PATHH has been able to reduce the wait time for children to receive mental health support, which is important as studies show that children receiving early intervention demonstrate greater improvement in their behavior and a decrease in post-traumatic stress symptoms. By coordinating multiple services under one roof, CCAC ensures the investigation becomes easier and support is offered when the child and family are most in need.