The State of Maryland has demonstrated its commitment to child wellbeing through mandating the establishment of Child Advocacy Centers throughout the state to facilitate working agreements between agencies responsible for responding to child maltreatment. Our CAC’s multidisciplinary team includes law enforcement officers, social workers, attorneys, medical professionals, and counselors through the Department of Social Services, State’s Attorney’s Office, Frederick Police Department, Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, Frederick Memorial Hospital, Maryland State Police, other municipal police departments, and Frederick County Government. Case reviews are held at least twice per month, providing a formal opportunity for these partners to share information and coordinate services to meet the needs of the children and families involved.
Our CAC is a department within the Citizens Services Division of Frederick County Government, and is funded through county funds, state and federal grants, and citizen donations. The CAC’s policies and procedures were written using the National Children’s Alliance (NCA) Standards for Accredited Members. Our facility was decorated and furnished by volunteer members and friends of a local non-profit 501(c)3 organization, the Friends of the CAC.
The Child Advocacy Center of Frederick County (CAC) provides a physically and emotionally safe, comfortable, private setting for children and their non-offending family members to access services when maltreatment is suspected. The location is secure, so only those children and families scheduled to come to the Center are allowed to enter. We value diversity and strive to offer accessible services in culturally competent, respectful ways. There is never a charge for services provided at the CAC.
Interviews of children are conducted at the CAC by a social worker specializing in forensic interviews. Neutral, non-leading methods follow best practices in the field and yield interviews that are non-traumatizing to the child and can be used in court to hold those who offend against children accountable.
The CAC offers a private room for children to be interviewed by a social worker specializing in forensic interviews. These interviews are conducted in a neutral manner, and are designed to be observed by other involved professionals through a video feed into an adjacent room. This helps to avoid having more than one interviewer in the room with the child while also helping to prevent the need for multiple, duplicative interviews.
Neutral, non-leading methods follow best practices in the field and yield interviews that are non-traumatizing to the child and can be used in court to hold those who offend against children accountable. Regardless of whether the child is able to describe what has or has not happened, the CAC and its partners follow the Child First doctrine:
The child is our first priority.
Not the needs of the family.
Not the child’s “story.”
Not the evidence.
Not the needs of the courts.
Not the needs of police, child protection, attorneys, etc.
The child is our first priority.
Medical EvaluationThe CAC’s medical team is available two days per week to provide pediatric medical examination services for children between the ages of 0 – 17. These examinations are scheduled at the recommendation of child protective services or law enforcement, or at the request of children and their families coming to the Center. The medical team also provides expert consultation to members of the multidisciplinary team and other professionals on the physical and emotional consequences of child abuse and neglect.
Counseling for children, youth, and caregivers: The CAC provides in-house trauma-informed counseling using a two-generation approach. Often both children and their caregivers have histories of exposure to child maltreatment, and for wellbeing to be restored, healing must be possible for both generations. The CAC also links families to outside counseling resources.
The CAC employs a full time Advocate to support families through the investigation, prosecution, and healing processes. The Advocate can help caregivers complete compensation paperwork, apply for needed benefits, or connect with other service providers, as well as accompany the child/family to court and coordinate services with other agencies. Advocacy is always available to children and families who come through the CAC, whether help is needed next week or next year. This support is provided for as long as the family wishes it; the CAC never ‘closes’ a case, so families can return to ask questions and request connections for services as their child’s and their family’s needs change.
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Awareness
The CAC provides professional and community trainings on the impact exposure to adverse childhood experiences such as child abuse have on the way children’s brains develop and function, and what we can do to effectively prevent and heal trauma. The CAC has an ACEs Liaison working with schools and law enforcement to initiate a new program, Handle with Care.
The CAC is fortunate to have a well-organized, all volunteer non-profit organization, the Friends of the Child Advocacy Center to support it. This group not only provides funds to benefit the children coming to the CAC, but volunteer hours as well. The group is now engaged in the You’ve Got a Friend mentoring program, pairing two volunteers each with a child or with a child’s parents to provide encouragement, support, and skills building for success.