In 1999, Advocacy Network for Children opened its first Children’s Advocacy Center in Adams County. Since then, the agency has opened centers in 8 additional counties to serve child victims of sexual or severe physical abuse. The counties include Brown, Cass, Schuyler, Pike, Morgan, Scott, Hancock and McDonough. To date, the agency has provided services to nearly 5,000 child victims of sexual abuse or severe physical abuse through its Children’s Advocacy Centers. The Cass County Children’s Advocacy Center was opened in 2004, Scott County Children’s Advocacy Center in 2005 and Morgan County Children’s Advocacy Center in 2006.
Children’s Advocacy Centers use a team approach in the investigation and prosecution of sexual and severe physical abuse cases involving children. The Children’s Advocacy Center provides a safe, neutral, child-friendly environment where a child victim of sexual abuse or serious physical abuse and their non-offending caretaker(s) meet with members of a multidisciplinary team of professionals for the purpose of investigation. Team members include Children’s Advocacy Center staff, local law enforcement, State Police, DCFS, State’s Attorneys, mental health, and medical personnel. Trained child forensic interviewers are on staff to talk to the child victim about what happened to them. Children’s Advocacy Center staff provides advocacy services from case inception to the time a case is closed. One of the main purposes of a Children’s Advocacy Center is to minimize the trauma experienced by a child who has been sexually or physically abused.
Advocacy Network for Children provides a prevention program to children Pre-K through 5th grade. Happy Bear (Pre-K through 1st) and “P.S. It’s My Body” (2nd through 5th) teaches children safety strategies and is designed to decrease children’s risk of being abused. The program includes a teacher and parent component that provides safety tips, strategies for talking to children about personal safety, and what to do if a child discloses abuse.
Advocacy Network for Children also provides mandated reporter trainings for individuals directly involved with children. Mandated Reporters include medical personnel, school personnel, social service/mental health personnel, law enforcement personnel, coroner/medical examiner personnel, child care personnel, and members of the clergy. Mandated Reporters are required to report suspected child maltreatment immediately when there is “reasonable cause to believe” that a child known to them in their professional or official capacity may be abused or neglected. Mandated Reporters are required by law to report to one of the following: Department of Children and Family Services, local police department or sheriff’s department. Failure to report could result in criminal liability.
The heart of Advocacy Network for Children’s mission is to protect and uphold the rights of abused or neglected children in our community and to act as a powerful voice in these children’s best interest. All services provided by Advocacy Network for Children are free of charge.