The Legal Eagles of Children’s Advocacy Centers
A Lawyer’s Guide to Soaring in the Courtroom
The book has been published! Please visit my publisher's website, Xlibris Publishing, to purchase the book, "The Legal Eagles of Children's Advocacy Center: A Lawyer's Guide to Soaring in the Courtroom." The book was written with the goal of assisting the professionals who work for Children's Advocacy Centers, which are organizations that help, assist and work for children who have alleged sexual and physical abuse.
Currently, Children's Advocacy Centers in more than 25 states have purchased the book. If your Children's Advocacy Center has not purchased a copy, you can visit the publisher's website.
Reviewers of the book, who are extremely involved and well-known in the child advocacy field, have responded positively to the book:
Victor Veith, the Director of the National Child Protection Training Center:
"In practical, understandable prose, Andrew Agatston addresses many of the legal challenges facing Children's Advocacy Centers. Executive directors, forensic interviewers and others who work in or with a CAC will find this book to be of great assistance."
Detective Mike Johnson, Plano (TX) Police Department and founder of the Collin County Children's Advocacy Center:
"After more than 15 years and more than 700 Children's Advocacy Centers and Multidisciplinary Teams (and counting), Andrew Agatston clarifies the fundamental 'critical' issues in one publication that each of us has addressed in our communities one issue at a time over the years. This is a fresh piece of advocacy for all child protection professionals, and will be part of my resource library that I'll recommend to all of my colleagues."
Chris Newlin, MS, LPC, Executive Director, National Children's Advocacy Centers:
"The Children's Advocacy Center model has revolutionized the United States' response system to child sexual abuse, and this shift has dramatically impacted the legal system's response to these children, the programs which serve them, and the records associated with this service. This book provides an outstanding overview of numerous challenging legal situations which CACs may face in this environment.
While focused on the perspective of current practice in the State of Georgia, these challenges are universal, and this comprehensive compilation, written in an easy to understand format, is a must have for every CAC and its legal counsel."
Children’s Advocacy Center consulting services
A consulting note to Children's Advocacy Centers, in Georgia or across the U.S.A.: I am offering trainings based upon the book either as part of your organizational meetings, your state's CAC network meetings or as part of conferences and trainings at which CAC professionals attend.
Children’s Advocacy Centers: One Place to Go
To understand Children’s Advocacy Centers and what they do today, it is important to understand what it was like in communities prior to CACs being established.
Before the existence of CACs, children who were physically and sexually abused had one of two choices. The first choice was to do nothing. The second choice was to report their allegations to child protective services, or to a policy agency, and then begin the whole cycle: Who do you talk to? How do you talk to them? When are going you going to talk to them? What are you going to tell them about? And how many different times are you going to have to tell the story about the sexual abuse?
Here is a case example prior to a CAC in a community. Greg is nine years old. Last week he told his mother than an older neighborhood boy had been sexually abusing him for more than a year. Children in situations like Greg’s live in every corner of our country. Greg erroneously thought that the hardest part was going to be telling his mom about the abuse.
But after he meets with a detective at a police precinct, Greg will get back into his mother’s car and ride to the social service agency to talk about the abuse again. After that, he will be driven to the medical doctor for a physical examination and will have to describe the abuse a third time. After that, he will go to a mental health professional, where he will have to discuss the abuse once more.
Before there were CACs, in a way it was easier to live with the abuse than to tell all of these people about it. Professionals at CACs know that every time a child tells about the abuse, she relives it again, and again, and again.
Greg, and so many other boys and girls, were being furthered victimized by the systems that were supposed to protect them.
Fast forward to when a CAC is established in a community. Instead of first going to a police precinct to be interviewed, 9–year–old Greg is brought directly to a CAC. He and his mother are greeted by a child and family advocate, who provides them with some initial information so that they understand the process that is going to occur.
The child and family advocate coordinates the professionals who meet at the CAC to work as a multidisciplinary team to create a child–focused approach to abuse cases: law enforcement officials, investigators and case workers from child protective services, representatives from the district attorney’s office, medical personnel, social workers, and therapists.
Greg is taken to a child–friendly room, with small tables and chairs that are designed for children. When the detective arrives to begin the forensic interview, he sits down with the child, each on a small chair, at eye level. The detective first builds rapport. He talks to the child. He asks legally sound, developmentally correct, and age appropriate questions. He listens to the answers. The rest of the multidisciplinary team observe from an adjacent room, and afterward meet to determine the most effective and least traumatic approach to assisting the child and his or her family.
The child and family advocate meet with the family afterward to explain the next steps. The advocate may provide crisis intervention and referrals for medical examinations and forensic evaluations. Depending on the results of the initial forensic interview, there might be a referral for counseling. The process is made as simple as possible for the family.
The benefits of this multidisciplinary approach is immediately seen, over the past model. There is consistent, fast follow–up to abuse reports by law enforcement. There is efficient medical and mental health referrals that more effectively help the child and his or her family. And most importantly, there is a dramatic reduction in trauma experienced by the child.
Every community should have a Children’s Advocacy Center. If yours does not, then contact your local legislators, your local district attorney’s office, and your community leaders to see what can be done. In Georgia, you can also obtain information from the statewide network, the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Georgia, at www.cacga.org.