Child Advocacy Centers and River Bridge 101
Child advocacy centers are child-focused, facility-based programs in which representatives from core disciplines law enforcement, child protection, prosecution, mental health, medical, and family advocacy collaborate to use their collective knowledge and expertise to improve the response and investigation of child abuse allegations. Historically, child abuse victims were required to tell their story multiple times to different agencies, forcing children to relive their traumatic experiences, often creating additional stress and anxiety for the child and their family.
National Children’s Alliance
Using the Child Advocacy Center Model that is no longer the case in our community. River Bridge Regional Center (RBRC) is a nationally accredited child advocacy center, utilizing a child-centered, multidisciplinary approach to the prevention, assessment, treatment, and investigation of child abuse. Within our warm, child-friendly environment, we provide hope and healing to neglected and abused children and their families.
The National Children’s Alliance explains that Child Advocacy Centers (CAC) are founded on a shared belief that child abuse is a multifaceted community problem and no single agency, individual, or discipline has the necessary knowledge, skills, or resources to serve the needs of all children and their families. The CAC’s coordinated and comprehensive response is also guided by a shared philosophy that the combined expertise of professionals across disciplines results in a more complete understanding of case issues and better provides help, support, and protection to children and families as they pursue healing and justice. The primary goal of all CACs is to ensure that children are not further victimized by the intervention systems designed to protect them.
The first child advocacy center opened its doors in Huntsville, Alabama in 1985, developed through Former Congressman Bud Cramer’s vision to bring together law enforcement, criminal justice, child protective services, medical and mental health workers in one coordinated effort. In 1988, children’s advocacy centers around the country joined forces to establish the National Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers (now named National Children’s Alliance or NCA) which serves as the home base for all child advocacy centers.
In 2018, there were 881 child advocacy centers across the United States. On one hand, 881 seems like a considerable number of child advocacy centers, but if you stop to think about all of the cities across the United States that number falls short. In Colorado, there are 16 child advocacy centers. Four accredited centers and one developing center serve the entire Western Slope of our state. River Bridge Regional Center now serves the four-county area of Garfield, Pitkin, Rio Blanco, and Eagle. This is an area covering 8,800 square miles with a population of over 132,000.
We are so grateful to our community who saw a need and took action to develop a child advocacy center. Over twelve years later, RBRC has served over 1,750 children in a four-county area. We experience an increase in children and families served every year. There is more work to be done and as the child advocacy center movement continues to grow we hope to continue lighting the way for our children.