In a perfect world, children live in safe, nurturing environments. In 2016 over 4,400 cases of child abuse were reported in Alachua County. Approximately 2,224 of these child victims were served at the Child Advocacy Center. It is a harsh reality that child abuse occurs all too frequently. Often these young victims are further traumatized by the very system designed to help them. 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