Children's Voice Dec 2005

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Survivors, Not Victims: Children of Murdered Parents

Child Advocacy Centers: Where Kids Come First

No child should ever have to witness a murder. But when the worst happens, a Children's Advocacy Center (CAC) may provide the best chance for a supportive, coordinated community response. Though the centers focus on severe child abuse, many have also been called on to assist survivors of parental homicide.

When a child enters a CAC setting, her comfort and security is the first concern. She can tell her story once and without delay to a highly trained interviewer, with all the right people present. The telling may be videotaped to prevent unnecessary repetition. Centers provide therapy for the children, as well as training for team members. CAC coordinators report numerous cases in which their child-first, teamwork approach not only reduced trauma for children, but also led to successful prosecution.

John Humphrey, Executive Director of the Children's Advocacy Center of Delaware, remembers a time when a father was convicted on the basis of the testimony of a 3-year-old the morning after the murder--but only after the team of police detectives, prosecutors, social workers, mental health, and medical staff cooled their heels while staff members and two aunts took the child out for chicken nuggets and a visit to the playground.

National Children's Alliance, the CAC network, has grown to 356 accredited members, 204 associate members, 44 chapters, four regional partners, and one tribal partner since its founding in 1992 by Representative Bud Cramer (D-AL), then District Attorney of Madison County, Alabama, in response to the needs of a growing number of facility-based child abuse intervention programs and the demand for guidance from grassroots organizations working with child victims. The Alliance provides national standards for the centers, training, technical assistance, networking, advocacy, and subgrants from its own U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention funding.


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