What is a Child Advocacy Centre?
A Child Advocacy Centre is a place where professionals from different agencies including doctors, police, child protection workers, psychologists, and child and family advocates form a multi-disciplinary team to provide services to care for all the needs of a child or young person who has been abused, and their family.
The services are easily accessible, delivered in a child friendly environment and families can access services for as long as they need them.
A Child’s Journey through the George Jones Advocacy Centre.
From the moment a child or young person comes in to the Child Advocacy Centre with their family they are greeted by a child and family advocate whose role is to ensure they feel comfortable and supported throughout the experience. Your advocate follows you through every part of the journey, from your interview to the investigation, and ensures that your wishes and feelings are listened to. The advocates are also here to make sure you know what is going on “behind the scenes” and are specialists in finding out what you need, helping you get it, and working towards your right to stay safe at all times.
There are a team of experienced staff, called “MIST”, who are there to guide children, young people and their families through the processes of speaking about the harm that has happened. First you speak with your specialist interviewer whose role it is to find out from you exactly what happened. At the same time you will have the opportunity to meet with and ask questions of your detective. The detectives are the police officers who gather evidence and speak to others with information to help investigate your whole case. The police need help to keep children and young people safe so they often talk with the Department of Child Protection and Family Support. These workers will assist you and your family to make sure you and other children involved are kept safe. With all this happening, the advocates are still involved. They are there to answer questions, help with referrals and be present with you and your family to advocate for your rights.
Sometimes feelings are so overwhelming that we struggle to know how to deal with them for ourselves. The Child Advocacy Centre has a team of psychologists who are specialists in working through the confusion, distressing feelings and thoughts we have about abuse. These feelings and thoughts often lead to us doing things we wouldn’t usually do, or that we and others do not like.
A psychologist can help us be aware of and change some of these thoughts so that we can start to feel better. The psychologists work closely with the Family Advocates and the rest of MIST team, though also make sure what you talk about with them stays private, so that you can talk with them about anything, no matter what it is.
The process of an Advocacy Centre is beneficial to children because they no longer need to tell about their abuse multiple times, which we now know can lead to them feeling re-traumatised.
All the people that they need for the whole process in handling a claim of abuse are in the one building and are working collaboratively, which enhances the quality and speed of communication between staff and the family, and substantially enhances the response time of all professionals involved.
This means that the child and family are provided information in a timely manner, including updating them on the progress of the investigation. The family and child feel “kept in the loop” on all aspects of the process and feel included in planning for safety and therapeutic needs.
The child becomes familiar with the centre – admin staff, advocates, police, child protection and therapeutic staff. The child and family are made to feel comfortable and welcome to the centre. They are more likely to continue to attend and hopefully get better outcomes.
for more information on our George Jones Child Advocacy Centre click here.