Child Advocacy Centers Are Lifeline For Families Facing Abuse. South Carolina Can Keep Innovating As A Leader.
Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs) are family-friendly facilities that investigate claims of child abuse and assist families and victims using evidence-based treatment throughout the investigatory, healing, and legal processes. CACs meet the needs of children and families facing one of the most stressful experiences they will ever go through and play a tremendous role in helping families heal and rebuild after the trauma of abuse.
ICS worked with CACs across South Carolina to understand their programming, successes, needs, and their opportunities for greater impact; we are proud to share these findings today in a new report.
There are 17 Children’s Advocacy Centers across the state, 16 of which are accredited by the National Children’s Alliance. The state’s CACs are supported by the South Carolina Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers. Our report found that CACs play a vital role in the prevention and treatment of child abuse in the state. They lead the nation in the use of evidence-based treatment and innovative best-practices but face challenges related to funding, staffing, and meeting the needs of families in our more rural regions.
In the course of this research, it became clear that the financial stakes for CACs in South Carolina were increasingly concerning. South Carolina’s CACs rely on federally-sourced, philanthropic and private dollars as well as fee-for-service reimbursements from the government, with very little private insurance reimbursement. Services provided by the CACs are always free of charge for the families they serve.
Each CAC has historically received an annual award from the National Children’s Alliance, passed through the South Carolina Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers. These annual federal funds, critical to operation, were once set at $10,000 for each CAC. However, they are no longer available for local CACs, only as pooled state chapter funds.
ICS shared the findings of our research with state policymakers and others committed to working on behalf of families and were heartened to find many individuals motivated to support this important work. Shortly before publishing this paper, the state legislature enacted a full replacement of those dollars from state funds for the 2018-19 fiscal year. In doing so, South Carolina became the 38th state to directly support these services.
We are delighted by this development and congratulate all those working on behalf of CACs in the state for their diligence in meeting the needs of families. We also recognize, of course, that this funding merely replaces what we expected to be lost – in order to reach all families in need with the appropriate services to heal, CACs need continued financial support. Presently, CACs receive federal grants from the Violence Against Women Act and the Victims of Crime Act. It is yet to be seen how these programs will fare under the current administration. Our report particularly identified that the impact of CACs could be strengthened with support for direct services, the continued provision of professional development, and administrative improvements in data systems. We share this report as one-step in a needed conversation statewide on how we can catalyze continued progress for our state’s children and families.