#childabuse | The Recorder – Children’s Advocacy Center receives accreditation

GREENFIELD — Now that Children’s Advocacy Center of Franklin County and North Quabbin Area Inc. has received accreditation, it has also received validation for the work it does and could potentially acquire more grants in the future to help fund its programs and services.

Executive Director Irene Woods said the Children’s Advocacy Center applied for accreditation in 2016, a rigorous and extensive process that took almost four years. Accreditation comes from the National Children’s Alliance.

The alliance recognized the Children’s Advocacy Center for its “delivery of high-quality and effective services to child abuse victims.”

The local center had to meet all of the standards required by the national organization, including providing multi-disciplinary services, Woods explained. The Children’s Advocacy Center works with numerous partners when working on a case, including the district attorney, police, the state, medical and mental health professionals, and protective services.

The building has to be friendly, safe and welcoming, she said, and there are guidelines for how interviews are done with child victims of sexual and other types of abuse.

“We had to create a manual that met all of the standards the National Children’s Alliance requires,” she said. “And we had to show how we meet all of those standards. There were 10.”

Woods said representatives from the National Children’s Alliance did site visits; spoke with her, board members and others; watched case reviews; and wrote reports.

“They had no suggestions for us,” she said. “That was nice because it means we’re already doing what we’re supposed to be doing.”

She said there are more than 800 child advocacy centers across the United States. A dozen are in Massachusetts and now all of those are accredited. Not all of the more than 800 across the nation are accredited yet.

Woods said she was very excited to receive the news. She said her team and those they collaborate with provide positive services to the children and families they serve.

“We want to make sure that already traumatized children aren’t traumatized any more,” she explained.

There are certain protocols to keep that from happening, she said. For instance, collaborators work together so that a child only has to be interviewed once, not by someone from each agency involved.

“We’ve got an effective approach with our multidisciplinary team,” she said.

The local center has served more than 400 children throughout Franklin County and the North Quabbin. State and national statistics show that without intervention, one-third of abused children will continue the cycle and abuse later with their own children. Statistics also show that one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused.

According to the National Children’s Alliance, it updated its standards in 2017 to reflect the most recent evidence-based practices in child abuse intervention and prevention. Accredited members must use a multidisciplinary team approach as the Children’s Advocacy Center does, working collaboratively in child abuse investigation, prosecution and treatment.

The National Children’s Alliance also considers standards regarding a center’s cultural competency and diversity, forensic interviews, victim support and advocacy, medical evaluation, therapeutic intervention and child-focused setting.

“The Children’s Advocacy Center of Franklin County and the North Quabbin Area is to be commended for its excellent work serving victims of child abuse,” said Teresa Huizar, executive director of the National Children’s Alliance. “As the national association and accrediting body for children’s advocacy centers across the country, our goal is to ensure that every victim of child abuse has access to high-quality services that result from professional collaboration.”

The local agency is supported by the Massachusetts Children’s Alliance and the Massachusetts Office for Victims Assistance. Woods said the rest of its funding comes from donations, plus two large fundraisers: its annual breakfast and golf tournament.

For more information, visit: cacfranklinnq.org or nationalchildrensalliance.org.

Reach Anita Fritz at
413-772-0261, ext. 269 or afritz@recorder.com.




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