What is the Child Advocacy Center?
The Child Advocacy Center (CAC) in Gainesville provides a child-friendly, safe and supportive environment for children who have experienced abuse and neglect. The CAC is a place where professionals – social workers, counselors, law enforcement officers, state attorneys, victim advocates, medical professionals and others – work as a team to coordinate investigations and interventions. This collaboration seeks to ensure that children are not re-victimized by the system and that they and their families are provided the support and services needed.
The Center has taken the lead in providing quality training for multidisciplinary team members and the child protection community, in addition to facilitating changes within the child welfare system to efficiently, compassionately, and comprehensively serve children who have been abused. The Center advocates for children in the dependency, civil and criminal court systems.
The Child Advocacy Center, Inc. is funded in part by the Alachua County Commission’s Community Agency Partnership Program (CAPP) and the United Way of North Central Florida. Additionally, this project was supported by Award No. VOCA-2018-Child Advocacy Center, In-00053 awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs. Sponsored by Florida Network of Children’s Advocacy Center and the State of Florida. The Child Advocacy Center, Inc. is an equal opportunity provider and employer.
The Child Advocacy Center works to prevent further trauma to the child victim by:
- Coordinating a comprehensive, multidisciplinary response to child abuse investigations and interventions.
- Conducting forensic interviews, reducing the number of times a child is required to share details of traumatic experiences.
- Reducing the time each case remains in the legal system.
- Keeping communication open among professionals in the agencies that deal with child abuse cases.
- Ensuring that children and their families receive the support and services they need to heal.
- Promoting community action and education to prevent child abuse.
Children are our society’s most precious resource. We have a responsibility to protect their minds and bodies and to nourish their souls. Together, we can break the cycle of child abuse.
Our Service Area
The Child Advocacy Center serves child victims aged 0 to 18 as well as their family and non-offending caregivers. Our focus is with children who have experienced abuse, neglect, human trafficking, and trauma. The Child Advocacy Center serves children and families primarily in Alachua County; however, the Center also accepts clients in need from neighboring counties. Alachua County has the 7th highest child abuse rate in the state of Florida with over 4,000 reported cases annually.
“There is no denying the value of the Center’s mission and the vast but often unseen contributions it makes to our community. What makes the CAC special, however, are the remarkable and selfless individuals who, together with our partners, have dedicated their lives to securing a brighter future for the children they serve.” -Lem Purcell, Former Chairman, CAC Board of Directors
A comprehensive, child-friendly facility where professionals from law enforcement, medical, child protection and therapeutic services effectively collaborate to meet the individual needs of child victims and break the cycle of abuse.
Safety, Support, Solutions, Success
A compassionate community where families thrive, children are safe, and victims receive the resources they need to heal.
In a perfect world, children live in safe, nurturing environments. Over 4,000 cases of child abuse are reported every year in Alachua County. In 2021, we served over 3,811 people affected by child abuse, including 2,101 child victims. Of the children we served, 42 were survivors of human trafficking and 24 were survivors of child pornography. In the past, children were shuffled among agencies, from the police department to the hospital to the mental health center to the prosecutor’s office. They have been asked to tell the story of their abuse over and over again. This fragmented system did not offer children and families the support and services they needed to begin the journey toward healing.
A Better Way
In 1998, a group of dedicated individuals from agencies who handle child abuse recognized a need for change. The primary focus was placed on the child victim and non-offending family members. This group began working as a team to establish an advocacy center that would unite all agencies working on behalf of child abuse victims and promote a compassionate community response.
“We have witnessed the Child Advocacy Center making a difference to reduce trauma to abused children by coordinating the efforts of core partner agencies to help expedite each child’s time in the system so that their healing can begin.” -Rod and DeeDee Smith, Child Advocacy Center Founders