Children’s Advocacy Center of North and Northwest Cook County is celebrating 25 years of service in 2014. The agency, incorporated on August, 28, 1989 has provided hope and opportunity to thousands of children and families within 38 suburban Cook County communities, including Elk Grove Township, who have been directly impacted by child sexual abuse, severe physical abuse, domestic violence, neglect and maltreatment.
Bob Tucker, CAC’s Board President, commends CAC’s founders for moving forward to create such a Center in an area were no services existed to help children affected by abuse. “Twenty-five years ago child sexual abuse was never talked about, and help for these children and their caring family members was nearly impossible to find. Since then we have helped thousands of children and families in our community regain their lives, their self-esteem and their sense of security and we have helped bring hundreds of abusers to justice.”
The CAC model intends for child protective systems to work together to support children in an effective way. One of 800 such Centers in the United States and 10 countries, CAC strives to create a safe, comfortable environment in which children can tell their abuse story one time.
“CAC utilizes a multi-disciplinary approach by coordinating with local law enforcement personnel, DCFS investigators and Assistant State’s Attorneys. Working together we aim to minimize further trauma to children who have been through such an experience, while maximizing the factual information to assist the investigations,” says Bonnie Fries, Assistant Director at CAC. “It’s hard enough to tell one stranger about your sexual or physical abuse so asking children to tell their story multiple times isn’t conducive to the healing process.”
Mark Parr explains how the model works, “CAC provides multiple touch points within the Center. Children and families may participate in the forensic interview process, meet with a professional counselor for individual or group counseling and or meet with an advocate who helps facilitate interactions a family may have with the court process.”
The goal, Parr says, “Is to reduce further trauma for children who have experienced abuse. By limiting the number of people a child has to interact with about their experience it gives them an opportunity to focus on healing. When children are listened to and believed in a compassionate way, they can and do move forward in a positive way.”
to CAC’s core services it also runs Safe from the Start (SFTS), a program
designed to help families with children ages birth to five. Launched in 2001 SFTS
is funded by the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority with
additional funding through the McCormick Foundation Tribune Charities. The
program’s objective is to address the adverse effects children experience when
exposed to violence. Children exposed to violence are at a higher risk for
delays in development, difficulties with emotional regulation, problematic
relationships, and school problems.
Safe From The Start offers an array of therapies including, play therapy, art therapy, individual therapy, family therapy and group therapy. In addition, this program is available to community partners to provide educational workshops on topics such as children’s exposure to violence, keeping kids safe, and positive partnering.
Carrie Estrada, SFTS Program Director says, “Slightly different from other CAC programs, Safe From The Start has an emphasis on the quality of attachment the young child has with his/her caregiver. Strengthening the bond between child and caregiver is an important part of the work we do given the young age of our clients. Our mission is to provide the caregiver with support and education as to how to address the emotional needs of her child who has been exposed to violence.”
The Children’s Advocacy Center of North and Northwest Cook County has provided coordinated child abuse interviews, crisis intervention, court advocacy and support services for thousands of children during the past 25 years. The services provided included coordination between the family, local police departments, the Department of Children and Family Services and the State’s Attorney’s Office; 24-hour crisis response services; child interviews and medical evaluations; linkages to community-based services; court preparation and advocacy; and on-going support and case management. All services are provided free of charge.
For information about volunteer opportunities, upcoming events and program information visit www.cachelps.org or call 847-885-0100.