After nearly 30 years, our trauma-informed, victim-centered approach is almost law.
MACA’s approach when responding to child survivors of abuse is generally accepted as the model of practice across the Commonwealth and the nation. However, there wasn’t a law that codifies our approach.
At the beginning of our current legislative session, we proposed bills to the House and the Senate to set the standards that Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs) must meet or exceed. Here are the requirements and why they’re necessary:
- Multidisciplinary teams (MDTs) must include representation from law enforcement, prosecutors, child protective services, the medical and mental health fields, and victim advocacy. This approach assures that there’s an effective and coordinated response to child maltreatment for every child.
- Cultural sensitivity services must be provided and are able to meet the needs of the diverse population of the Commonwealth so that children feel comfortable and know that they’re in a safe space.
- Forensic interviews are neutral, focused on fact-finding, and duplicative interviewing should be avoided. Numerous interviews can be incredibly traumatic for children, who may have to relive the same experiences when sharing what’s happened to them.
- Victim support and advocacy for children and caregivers must be provided. This includes appropriate counseling, legal and medical services or referrals, access to medical evaluations and mental health services, a formal case review process, and a case tracking, monitoring, and outcomes process. Access to these services and processes relieves the burdens of children and their caregivers so they can focus on healing.
- CACs must have the organizational capacity to effectively serve children in need and provide a child-focused setting that is comfortable, safe, and private.
The law also states that MACA “may contract with state and federal entities to ensure that children’s advocacy centers are equipped to meet the needs of child victims of abuse” and that they “may receive and disburse any funds, grants, and services in furtherance of its functions.”
In combination with streamlining the state funding for our work, the law will help us ensure that our CACs are able to meet and exceed these standards and serve the children who need us most.