In the past, victims of abuse and violence and their non-offending family members described the process of seeking justice as burdensome. Although each agency involved in the process was well meaning and dedicated, the lack of collaboration and coordination between agencies resulted in negative consequences for victims and families, who said they felt re-victimized by the system.
Without a child-friendly advocacy center to coordinate child abuse investigations, children were often shuffled from one agency to another and interviewed multiple times about their victimization. Collection of evidence, including photographs of injuries, occurred in crowded hospital emergency rooms by medical professionals inexperienced in working with child victims. As a result children and families felt re-traumatized and investigators did not always get the best evidence possible to bring the offender to justice.
In May 1995, individuals representing community agencies and governmental agencies involved in child abuse cases met to explore ways to improve the criminal justice system’s response to these vulnerable victims. Participants identified the following problems:
Subsequently, the group determined that the most effective way of addressing these problems was through the establishment of a childrens advocacy center in southern Arizona.
The Southern Arizona Children’s Advocacy Center was established in 1996 as part of the Pima County Protocols for the Multidisciplinary Investigation of Child Abuse. These protocols are recognized by professionals in the field as the best practice for child abuse investigations and are signed by the Pima County Attorney’s Office, the Pima County Sheriffs Department, the Tucson Police Department, The Department of Child Safety, the Oro Valley Police Department, Marana Police Department, and mental health providers.
The staff and Board of Directors of the Southern Arizona Children’s Advocacy Center are proud to be a part of a coordinated response to child abuse in southern Arizona. We work diligently to assure each child is treated with dignity, and that his/her voice is heard throughout the investigative process.
Southern Arizona Children’s Advocacy Center has been serving our community for 20 years!