The Hudson County Child Advocacy Center (CAC) was created in May 2005 under the auspices of the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office. The CAC was located on the second floor of the Hudson County Public Safety Building at 555 Duncan Avenue in Jersey City. The site was across the hall from the Prosecutor's Office's Special Victims Unit. As a result of some shortcomings associated with the Duncan Avenue facility, alternative ideas and locations were contemplated for the CAC.
In the fall of 2006, it became apparent
to the CAC Advisory Board that the structure and location of the CAC at Duncan
Avenue hindered the opportunity to become a fully operational Child Advocacy
Center. In October 2006, Prosecutor DeFazio convened a meeting of Advisory Board
members to discuss a new direction. As a result of that meeting, a new Advisory
Board was created to transition the CAC from a prosecutor-based entity to non-profit
status. Prosecutor DeFazio appointed Peter Herbst, the executive director of
the Hudson County Child Abuse Prevention Center, to chair the new Advisory Board.
With input from Anne Lynn, the National Children's Alliance Regional Director, the Advisory Board agreed to transition the CAC to non-profit status as a program of the Hudson County Child Abuse Prevention Center. The Advisory Board also decided to pursue new space for the CAC at 586 Newark Avenue in Jersey City. On behalf of the CAC, the Hudson County Child Abuse Prevention Center received a state grant in the amount of $211,050 to renovate the space at 586 Newark Avenue. This new site would be directly across the street from the Hudson County Court House and a five minute walk from Journal Square, the County's major transportation hub. In 2007, the CAC hired its first executive director, Stacey Maida, M.S.W., L.S.W.
The new space at 586 Newark Avenue included 3 offices, 2 interview rooms, a monitoring room, 2 counseling rooms, a medical examination room, a conference room, a kitchenette and a reception/play area. The facility was designed to be child friendly, developmentally appropriate and accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The CAC staff, along with the MDT coordinator and DYFS, would orchestrate referrals for counseling services for victims and their non-offending family members. The CAC staff also provided on-site counseling services such as "Girl Talk," which was designed for teenage girls.
Services For Children
The mission of the Hudson County Child Advocacy Center is to provide a child-centered, community-based facility to respond to the multi-dimensional needs of child abuse victims in a thorough, efficient and caring manner which at all times recognizes the needs of the child as the most important priority. It is anticipated that the CAC will serve, on an annual basis, 100 or more Hudson County children from birth to 13 years old who are victims of severe physical and sexual abuse. The core functions of the CAC include:
Provide a child friendly environment where children meet with a skilled interviewer to talk about their allegations of abuse.
Provide ongoing case coordination services for abuse victims and their caregivers following the initial interview.
Connect victims and their caregivers with mental health and medical services as needed.
While the daily work of a CAC fluctuates, the following actions occur for new cases: DYFS or law enforcement brings the child to the CAC along with a non-offending parent or guardian. The MDT Coordinator is notified and the team--investigators from the Prosecutor's office, DYFS caseworkers and a medical forensic examiner, is summoned. In the meantime, the child and adult(s) wait in the waiting/play area. Light snacks will be offered. The child is interviewed by one trained member of the team. The interview is video-recorded and monitored by other team members. Counseling will be provided for the victim and other family members. If necessary, a medical exam is performed. After the initial interview, the CAC will provide case conferences to monitor the progress of the case, ongoing counseling for the victim and any other type of appropriate support.
The CAC is involved through either a referral from DYFS or law enforcement. The child victim is brought to the CAC, along with the non-offending parent or guardian. The MDT coordinator is also notified and the CAC team - investigators from the Prosecutor's Office, DYFS caseworkers and a medical team are summoned. The victim and family members are brought to the receptions/play area and light snacks and beverages are offered. The child is forensically interviewed by a trained member of the team. The interview is video and audio recorded and monitored by a supervisor and other team members. Counseling will be provided for the victim and other family members and a medical exam, if necessary will be performed, either on-site or at a licensed medical facility. The CAC will provide case conferences to monitor the progress of all cases seen at the Center and the counseling needs of the victim, as well as any other necessary support services.
In the spring of 2011 the Hudson County Child Abuse Prevention Center, the host and sponsor of the Child Advocacy Center, notified its Advisory Board and its CAC partners that all funding for CAC operations had run out. The economic climate in 2010-2011 made it impossible to privately raise money or receive sufficient grant money to run the CAC at the Newark Avenue site. Due to these financial constraints it was decided that the CAC operations would revert to a Prosecutor-based program through the auspices of the Special Victims Unit (SVU) at the Duncan Avenue location. Effective July 1, 2011 the CAC returned to its original home at the Special Victims Unit. The MDT team continues to monitor the progress of all child victim cases, as well as coordinating the services provided by the Prosecutor's Office, the Victim/Witness Unit, DYFS and the mental health and medical communities.
The CAC Advisory Board and the Hudson County
Child Abuse Prevention Center are hopeful that the reversion of the CAC operations
to Duncan Avenue is a temporary measure. The partners remain committed to finding
the ideal setting and necessary funding to best serve our child victims in the
most appropriate facility to meet all of their needs.