Welcome to the Child Advocacy Center, a place where young victims of abuse come to safely and comfortably share their difficult stories. The children we serve have endured much in their young lives: physical and sexual abuse; online exploitation; child pornography; neglect; and more (things no child should ever experience.)
Inside our doors, children are greeted by delightful murals, a toy-filled family room and professionals trained to address the unique needs of children who have been hurt.
We provide these children two main services – Forensic Interviews and Sexual Assault Forensic Exams. The evidence and information we gather is then shared with a “team” of law enforcement officials, Children’s Division investigators, juvenile officers and more. Together, this team analyzes the information, discusses outcomes and decides on a safety plan that champions the best interests of each child.
Forensic Interview - When a concern arises that a child has endured abuse, a Forensic Interview is the best way to gather information pertaining to the allegation. A Forensic Interview is an objective, non-leading and age-appropriate information-gathering process. Even more important, it limits or even eliminates additional trauma to the child.
Unless a child is too young to talk, his or her involvement with the Child Advocacy Center will begin with a Forensic Interview. The interview is conducted by someone trained in forensics, child development and linguistics and will take place in one of our age-appropriate interview rooms. The interview will be permanently recorded.
The CAC employs six forensic interviewers who have been trained to ask questions in an objective, non-leading and developmentally-appropriate manner for the age of the child. The interviewer wears an earpiece throughout the interview. This allows multidisciplinary team members, who are discreetly observing the interview, to ask additional questions that can clarify information and reduce the times a child will have to be interviewed. As a result, all members of the multidisciplinary team obtain the information needed to proceed on behalf of the child.
Sexual Assault Forensic Exam (SAFE) - When there is the concern that a child has been sexually assaulted, a SAFE exam will be scheduled. A SAFE is a comprehensive, non-invasive medical examination that is much like a well-child check-up. The exam will take place in one of our amazing exam rooms where every inch of wall and ceiling space are covered in murals, designed to delight and distract a child.
A child will never be restrained during the exam and it is the child’s choice whether the exam is completed. Children may even choose to have a support person in the examination room with them.
During the exam, our medical assistant will use many stress-reducing activities for the child’s benefit. For example, she may play “I Spy” with a child, challenging him or her to find fun and funny elements among the sea creatures in our murals. She may also blow bubbles, play music and share other fun distractions.
Our medical provider will use a colposcope as part of the exam. This sophisticated piece of forensic equipment records the evidence of abuse.
Child at Risk Exam (CARE) - A CARE is a comprehensive, head-to-toe physical exam used to document recent or past trauma to a child. It will also take place in our beautiful examination room. We photograph all physical evidence collected during a CARE exam with state-of-the-art equipment.
We are able to refer severe physical abuse cases to outside agencies for additional follow up services. Children have many choices during this exam and again, are not restrained at any time. In addition, if a child refuses this exam, we will not proceed.
Multidisciplinary Team Coordination - The investigation of child abuse is a team effort. Law enforcement officers, juvenile officers, prosecutors, medical personnel, Missouri Children’s Division caseworkers, therapists and CAC staff make up the multidisciplinary team that investigates each case. While CAC staff interview and examines the child, the entire team works behind the scenes, observing the interview and collaborating to determine a course of action to take on behalf of each child, the CAC serves as the central meeting place where team members gather to begin the investigative process.
Agency Collaboration - The Child Advocacy Center regularly collaborates with local and regional agencies for the benefit of our children and families. We often refer them to the following agencies for further assistance:
We want to end the abuse suffered by every child victim who walks through our door.
We place the needs of the child first in an investigation for abuse.
As an agency, as employees, as volunteers and as directors of the Child Advocacy Center’s board, we:
Staying true to our mission, every decision we consider will be tested by two questions:
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