The Suffolk County Child Advocacy Center (CAC) reduces the trauma of child sexual/physical abuse or neglect and promotes the coordinated prosecution of offenders.
Clients Served Last Year:
Andrea Ramos-Topper, LMSW
Child abuse – whether physical, sexual, neglectful, or psychological – is a nationwide issue that affects children of all ages. Roughly 92% of children know their perpetrator and 65% of all reported child abuse cases involve sexual abuse. When child abuse allegations arise, children must often relive their trauma by retelling their story to multiple parties (law enforcement, medical teams, etc.).
Offer a calm and neutral place for children to be interviewed, examined medically, and evaluated psychologically once by a multidisciplinary team.
How We Do it:
Cases at the CAC are referred by open investigations in which child abuse is alleged. A multidisciplinary team, the “Strikeforce Team,” is comprised of the District Attorney’s Office, County Attorney’s Office, Police Department, Department of Social Services, Department of Health Division of Community Mental Hygiene Services, medical staff, and EAC Network’s professional staff. The “Strikeforce Team” collaborates to treat the child and prosecute the offender.
One child-friendly interview occurs behind a one-way mirror and is videotaped so children do not have to repeat their story or suffer from the constant reminder of what happened to them. A medical examination is conducted by a physician in a large, child-friendly examination room.
Each month, agency representatives review the cases together and update each other on client progress – this is an essential piece of the multidisciplinary approach to ensure communication between all agencies involved in the case. Furthermore, family advocates follow up with every child to ensure mental health services are being provided. Support groups for children and their families as well as individual therapy are also provided.
The Outcomes of Suffolk County Child Advocacy Center
In a recent satisfaction survey...
100% of parents felt that the CAC staff were friendly and pleasant
100% felt more prepared with what to expect for the situation facing their family
90% were satisfied with the supportive resources provided for the weeks to come
What People Say About Suffolk County Child Advocacy Center
I finally felt safe when I came to the CAC. The people that worked with me were really nice and I could tell that they were really trying to help. That made the whole process I was going through a little less scary. Once everything with my case closed, I was offered the opportunity to apply for an internship in the CAC’s office and I was accepted! I thought that working there would be a good way to keep busy over the summer, have a new work experience, and keep my mind off everything that happened to me. I was right. As an intern I learned about the responsibilities that come with working in the real world and understand what it really takes to help people. Just being around the staff was great too – it is a really friendly environment! I also got involved with the CAC’s Kids 2 Kids support group program that summer. I thought it would be good to be around other kids who went through similar situations so we could support each other and not feel alone. We did a lot of different activities during the group, but my favorite was when we made artwork using paint and tape to peel off a special word. Mine was purple splatter paint with the word “love.” I definitely think that since I first came to the CAC, and especially through Kids 2 Kids I have changed positively. There was a session on feelings and how to control them that really helped me because I didn’t know how to. My mom also learned from the group and our communication between each other has really improved. Overall, I just think the CAC is a really good, safe place for kids to find comfort and help if they are having these kinds of issues, and I thank everyone at the CAC for everything they’ve done for me.
The CAC is a very special place because we see families when they are in a whirlwind of action being taken by the State. There is a lot of fear and anxiety that comes with that, but we are the people that provide comfort and care, and resources and guidance though that process. So helping not just the children but also their families is important to us so that the foundation at home is a solid place from which to continue healing. The CAC’s Kids 2 Kids support group is where I get the most satisfaction because it is through the peer support that I get to interact with the kids as survivors (as opposed to victims from when they first arrive at our office). Plus, it’s just plain old fun! While there is a lot of good that happens through our office, it is still challenging to work in this field. I find myself wanting to do more to help but can’t because of limitations due to the sensitive nature of these cases.