SEATTLE - Professionals in child abuse investigation and treatment are meeting this week in Huntsville, Ala., including some from Washington. At the National Symposium on Child Abuse, they will get the latest research on topics such as trauma-focused therapy, sex trafficking and online exploitation.
Many youngsters are now seen at Children's Advocacy Centers (CACs), where they are interviewed by specially trained investigators and receive medical treatment and counseling. Chris Newlin, executive director of the National Children's Advocacy Center, the conference sponsor, said it is less stressful for kids and families to receive these services if they are provided in a single place.
"Child abuse - especially child sexual abuse - is not just a criminal justice issue, not just a Child Protective Services issue," he said. "It's that plus a mental health issue - a medical issue - and only by having these professionals work together will we be able to be effective in our response."
Newlin said professionals are seeing a troubling trend: an increase in child neglect across the country. Nineteen Children's Advocacy Centers in Washington coordinated almost 5,800 cases last year, most of them involving sexual abuse.
There are 850 CACs nationwide. They also provide child abuse prevention training to more than 500,000 people a year. According to Newlin, the child-friendly setting and team strategy has paid off for county and state budgets, as well as for individual families.
"Using the CAC approach, we have better outcomes, and we save more than $1,000 per case," he noted. "Just by using this model that's more effective, we saved our nation a combined $270 million." The National Symposium on Child Abuse runs today through Thursday, attracting people from every state and other countries who are interested in adopting a CAC system.
CAC statistics by state are available at www.nationalchildrensalliance.org.