More than 1,200 advocacy services were provided in the first year of operation
SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. — When the County of Santa Clara Children’s Advocacy Center opened on April 19, 2021, it marked the achievement of a longtime goal to provide young victims of abuse and their families with a full-service sanctuary committed to compassion and justice.
The 11,000-square-foot center is a one-stop shop for myriad services needed by clients, from the criminal justice side to social services, medical care, mental health, and victim advocacy. Previously, the vulnerable young victims of sexual and physical abuse had to go from place to place to get the support they needed to recover, with considerable difficulty both logistically and emotionally. Affected families are often from underserved communities and may not have the necessary resources to visit multiple locations to get help. By bringing all services under one roof, potential gaps in services are eliminated and the victim is provided with all the support at hand to help with recovery.
“We have made a warm, safe place where our most professional experts can take care of our most vulnerable victims,” said Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen, whose Office partnered with the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center and the Board of Supervisors to make the CAC a reality. “Healing begins when they walk through our doors.”
The numbers show the impact and the need for what is considered a national model. From April 19, 2021 to March 31, 2022, the CAC provided the following services:
- 1,232 – Victim advocacy services provided for clients, siblings, and family members. That means confidential advocacy and case management, referrals to counseling and therapy services, victim support during forensic interviews and medical exams, and accompaniment to court dates. This represents a 175% increase over the previous year.
- 435 – Specialized medical exams provided for children and teens who may be victims of sexual or physical abuse, assault, and neglect. That’s up by 49%.
- 431 – Forensic interviews for children and teens, in partnership with 13 law enforcement and investigative agencies throughout Santa Clara County, as well as federal law enforcement agencies. This is a 15% increase year-to-year.
“The high utilization of the CAC reflects the support of this collaborative model,” said Supervisor Susan Ellenberg. “When all involved parties can see one another’s work – including law enforcement, forensic, advocacy, medical, mental health and social services providers – we compound their collective impact and give children and their families the support they need.”
The Children’s Advocacy Center, located at 455 O’Connor Drive in San José, houses a certified medical clinic with three exam rooms, a lab and testing facilities; forensic interview rooms with one-way glass and recording capabilities; office areas for legal professionals, law enforcement officers and social workers; and conference/consultation rooms and social service areas including children’s playrooms, a teen room, a family room, and a multifunctional classroom. Décor is colorful and friendly, and toys, books, television, snacks, and more are all readily available, as is the attention of Percy, the emotional support Labrador. Learn more in this video produced by the District Attorney’s Office.
“This facility wraps the forensic and clinical needs of young victims within a surrounding framework of support and compassion,” said County Executive Jeffrey V. Smith, M.D., J.D. “Before, families would have to go from place to place, and that meant additional travel, and meeting new people at each new place – that’s extremely difficult for a family that is already going through something horrible. This makes the CAC a comfortable, welcoming face, all in one place.”
Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive from clients – 94% of those surveyed strongly agreed that the CAC staff was friendly and pleasant, and that staff provided resources to support their child and respond to their needs.
“The CAC seems to have thought of everything to make every aspect as positive as possible for all involved,” wrote one father whose children were served by staff operating at the center. “The various advocates were so warm, inviting, informational and calming for my children and myself. … The environment, everything added to the feeling of security for everyone. Everything and every detail was so well thought-out.”
The CAC is looking to expand in the coming year, with a proposed addition of on-site behavioral health staff to the mix for ongoing support.
“During its first year in operation, the Children’s Advocacy Center has demonstrated that all medical, investigative and victim services under one roof is the most beneficial to the children of Santa Clara County,” said Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, who authored the proposal for the Children’s Advocacy Center with Supervisor Susan Ellenberg. “They don’t have to be shuttled to different locations and be interviewed about sexual and physical abuse multiple times. We no longer are working in silos and that has made all the difference.”