A Children's Advocacy Center (CAC) is a child-focused, facility-based program in which representatives from many disciplines, including law enforcement, child protection, prosecution, mental health, medical and victim advocacy, child advocacy, work together to conduct interviews and make team decisions about investigation.
The Children’s Advocacy Center of the San Luis Valley (SLV CAC) has been serving the community of the San Luis Valley since 2013. The services provided are to children ages 0-17 and their non-offending caregivers. Services are free and consists of family advocacy, forensic interviews and Sex Assault Nurse Examinations (SANE) and wellness exams.
Family advocacy is offered to the non-offending caregiver and family members. A Family Advocate provides support to the family from beginning to end of a case. Forensic interviews are for children who have experienced sexual abuse/ assault, severe abuse/neglect and or have witnessed a crime. Forensic interviews are neutral, unbiased and aimed at eliciting facts from children in a developmentally appropriate manner. There are currently three forensic interviewers and bilingual interviews are available. The Tu Casa, Inc. SANE program is also a key program that works within the SLV CAC service area. The program offers acute sexual assault examinations within four days of the assault and a wellness exam any time after the fourth day.
Referrals for forensic interviews and SANE services must be made by the Department of Social/Human services, Law Enforcement or the District Attorney's Office. The number of interviews completed in 2013 was 20. The number of interviews completed in 2021 was 102. The SLV CAC is located in Alamosa, CO, but provides services to all six counties in the SLV.
When utilized correctly a child will not have to tell the worst experience of his or her life over and over again, to doctors, law enforcement, lawyers, therapists, investigators and sometimes school personnel. Before the existence of the SLV CAC in the valley, children were asked to talk about their experience in a police station or other non-child friendly environment and could potentially believe they are in trouble. When law enforcement and/or child protection believe a child is being abused, the child is referred to the CAC, a safe, neutral, child-focused environment, and taken to the CAC by the non-offending caregiver or guardian.
The number of referrals received for services decreased significantly during the two years of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Prior to the COVID-19, the SLV CAC was completing anywhere from 130 interviews to 175 per year.