PA 17-190—sHB 7112

Committee on Children

AN ACT CONCERNING CHILDREN'S ADVOCACY CENTERS

SUMMARY: This act defines “children's advocacy center” and allows such centers to assist multidisciplinary teams that investigate alleged child abuse, neglect, or trafficking.

Existing law permits the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the appropriate state's attorney to establish multidisciplinary teams for various purposes related to child abuse, neglect, and trafficking. The act specifies that the purposes of such teams include (1) providing protection to abused, neglected, or trafficked children and their families, not just to children as under prior law, and (2) advancing and coordinating the prompt investigation of alleged child trafficking as well as alleged child abuse or neglect as under existing law.

Under existing law, a multidisciplinary team consists of various professionals, including DCF, law enforcement, and health care representatives. The act also requires inclusion of a forensic interviewer and a child advocate, both of whom must be designated by the team members.

Additionally, the act specifies certain actions the state chapter of the National Children's Alliance (see BACKGROUND) and multidisciplinary teams may take.

It also makes technical and conforming changes.

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2018

CHILDREN'S ADVOCACY CENTERS

Definition

Under the act, a children's advocacy center is an entity that:

1. is accredited or granted associate or developing status by the National Children's Alliance and

2. provides a child-focused, trauma-informed, facility-based program that fosters collaboration among members of a multidisciplinary team to interview and meet with children and their parents, guardians, or other caregivers to obtain and provide information to personnel charged with making decisions about (a) investigating and prosecuting alleged child abuse, neglect, or trafficking and (b) the safety, treatment, and provision of services to the alleged victims of these crimes.

Assistance Allowed

Under the act, children's advocacy centers may assist multidisciplinary teams by:

1. providing safe, private, child- and family-friendly settings;

2. establishing culturally competent policies and procedures;

3. helping to develop written protocols for an interdisciplinary and coordinated approach to investigations;

4. providing specialized medical evaluation and treatment, mental health services and support, and advocacy services to children at the centers or through coordination with, and referral to, other appropriate providers;

5. providing regular case review to aid in decision making, problem solving, systems coordination, and information sharing concerning the status of cases and services children and their families require; and

6. providing a tracking system to monitor case progress and outcomes.

The act also permits the advocacy centers to assist the teams by providing forensic interviews of children. Under the act, the interviews:

1. must be conducted by a trained forensic interviewer and recorded;

2. must solicit information in an unbiased, fact-finding manner that is culturally sensitive and appropriate for each child's developmental stage; and

3. may be observed when possible by team members involved in child abuse, neglect, or trafficking investigations.

STATE CHAPTER OF THE NATIONAL CHILDREN'S ALLIANCE AND MULTIDISCIPLINARY TEAMS

The act allows the multidisciplinary teams and state chapter of the National Children's Alliance to:

1. coordinate and facilitate the exchange of information among children's advocacy centers;

2. provide technical assistance to municipalities to support the establishment, growth, and accreditation of these centers;

3. educate the public and legislature on the needs of child abuse, neglect, and trafficking victims;

4. provide or coordinate multidisciplinary training opportunities that support a comprehensive response to alleged child abuse, neglect, or trafficking; and

5. annually submit a report to the legislature and the governor's task force on justice for abused children on each center's outcomes.

BACKGROUND

National Children's Alliance

The National Children's Alliance is a national association and accrediting body for children's advocacy centers. In order to be accredited by the Alliance, a center must pass a site review and be evaluated on 10 operational standards. The Alliance may grant associate or developing status to centers that are seeking accreditation but have not implemented all of the required standards.