Identifying and developing strong public/private partnerships with local nonprofits are ideal and efficient means of accomplishing some of Tazewell County’s core missions. The Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) is one such organization that works in conjunction with the County to help our most vulnerable citizens.
The CAC’s mission statement is to provide a coordinated approach to the investigation, prosecution and treatment of child sexual abuse and serious abuse cases, which is sensitive to the child’s needs and holds offenders accountable. Victims of child abuse are taken to a CAC facility where a specially-trained counselor will interview the child in a home-like setting that is nonthreatening and comfortable. The room in which the interview takes place is monitored with video cameras that allow the police, the prosecutor, social workers and defense counsel to submit questions and watch the process. When a case finally reaches the trial phase, the child has not been traumatized by multiple interrogations and the evidence presented in court is solid and fair.
Throughout the entire process, the child is protected and has an advocate who assists the family during the investigative and prosecution phases of the case. A member of the CAC staff will also work with the State’s Attorney’s office to assure the child is prepared for court and what he or she will encounter. Court proceedings can be difficult for adults, so one can only imagine what a defenseless child is going through.
The CAC averages 260 cases of reported child sexual abuse and serious physical abuse annually. The Center has a home in Pekin that was converted several years ago to be its main facility. A $280,000 addition was recently added that gives the staff and counselors a state-of-the-art facility in which to advocate for children and their needs. There are also satellite offices in Woodford and Mason counties.
The Children’s Advocacy Center also works in the area of prevention and education for both children and their parents. Programs for parents on how to talk with their children and how to recognize and prevent abuse are offered. Tips like limiting your child’s one-on-one opportunities with people or knowing who will be at a child’s sleepover are some of the keys in preventing abuse. Prevention education programs are also available for preschool and early elementary children using body safety strategies.
Other resources available at the CAC include: on-site crisis counseling with licensed therapists set at the family’s convenience, referrals for medical examinations by trained nurse practitioners and physicians, and linking individuals to the many community resources available to them. The newest resource helps kids and parents prevent cyber-bullying, which seems to be in the news on a regular basis.
Tazewell County is fully supportive of the CAC and their mission. Its director, Barb Strand, provides excellent leadership and support as abuse victims wade through a traumatizing time in their life. As with any nonprofit, support is always welcome and needed. The CAC is an excellent example of the public and private sectors working together to help solve a difficult societal problem. They can be reached at tazewellcac.org. iBi