In 2003, a group of concerned citizens spear-headed a task force made up of representatives from local child-serving agencies in order to address the lack of a coordinated response to investigations into child abuse in Aiken County. All too often, children with the courage to talk about the abuse they had experienced were expected to undergo repeated questioning about the most traumatic event in their lives. Many times they had to tell their story in places that were not child-friendly and were interviewed by persons who were not trained to talk with children. The CAC of Aiken was established to ensure that all the services a child and family needs (medical examinations, forensic interviewing, advocacy support) could occur in one location – a safe, nurturing, child-friendly environment, at no cost to a child’s family.
Since opening with one staff member in 2003, The CAC of Aiken has experienced significant program growth and now employs 7 professionals with wide ranging expertise. The incredible support and generosity of community stakeholders have helped the center achieve great things during its brief history:
- 2003 – 11 agency task force signed its first Multidisciplinary Agreement. The staff of one began conducting forensic interviews with children.
- 2004 – Obtained its 501-c-3 and began a capital campaign to build a permanent building
- 2006 – Expanded its reach to include surrounding counties and established a Multidisciplinary Team in Barnwell County
- 2008 – Ribbon cutting for its new building (and current location) on Trolley Line Rd. in Aiken
- 2008 – Obtained National Accreditation through the National Children’s Alliance
- 2010 – began prevention education and began conducting Stewards of Children Trainings, educating over 200 adults every year.
- 2015 – Added a Child Advocate to staff in order to provide non-offending caregivers emotional support and information about community resources.
- 2019 – Increased capacity to conduct Forensic Interviews by adding an additional Forensic Interviewer/Therapist to its staff. Conducted a record number of forensic interviews (509).
- 2020 – Increased its capacity to keep up with the demand for Medicals by adding an additional medical provider.
Without a CAC
To understand what a Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) is, you must understand what children face without one. Without a CAC, the child may end up having to tell about the worst thing that has happened in his or her life over and over again, to doctors, police officers, lawyers, therapists, investigators, judges, and others. They may have to talk about that traumatic experience in a police station where they think they might be in trouble or may be asked the wrong questions by a well-meaning teacher or other adult that could hurt the case against the abuser.
With a CAC
When police or child protective services (SC Dept. of Social Services) believe a child is being abused, the child is brought to the CAC—a safe, child-focused environment—by a caregiver or other “safe” adult. At the CAC, the child tells their story one time to a trained interviewer who knows the right questions to ask in a way that does not retraumatize the child. Then, a team that includes medical professionals, law enforcement, mental health, solicitor’s office, child protective services, victim advocacy, and other professionals make decisions together about how to best help the child and their family. CAC’s offer trauma-focused therapy and medical exams, victim advocacy, case management, and other services. This is called the multidisciplinary team (MDT) response and is a core part of the work of CAC’s do in South Carolina.
Child Advocacy Center Advantages
- Reduces the number of interviews a child victim must endure, which reduces the trauma to the child.
- Creates a comfortable, child-friendly environment for the investigation as opposed to the environment typically experienced in a hospital emergency room or police station.
- Reduces law enforcements and social services investigative time.
- Enables quicker prosecutions through more efficient case processing.
- Increases communication between agencies for an improved understanding of their roles and case need.
How Does the CAC Model Work?
Maryann Burgess, Executive Director
Kimberly Sawyer, MS, LPC – Forensic Interview Specialist/MDT Coordinator
LaSaundria Walker, M.Ed., LPC-A, NCC – Forensic Interview Specialist/Therapist
Alice Murphy, Child Advocate Coordinator, Therapist
Nichole Lee, M.Ed., LPC-A, NCC – Forensic Interviewer Specialist/Therapist
Arimenta Greene, Officer Manager
Gina Bassford, Board Chair
Debbie Eblen, Vice Chair
Cyndi Catts, Secretary
Liz Stewart, Treasurer
Sharon Hagan, Immediate Past Chair
Thank you for your interest in becoming a part of the team at The Child Advocacy Center of Aiken County.
The CAC of Aiken is an Equal Opportunity Employer committed to inclusive hiring and dedicated to diversity in its work and staff. Employment decisions at our agency are made without regard to race, color, religion, gender, sex, national origin, disability status, age, sexual orientation, veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by applicable state or federal law.
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