Minnesota Hospital Association


January 16, 2019

Child Advocacy Center provides protection, justice, healing

The Central Minnesota Child Advocacy Center serves children when there is a concern of child abuse to help preserve the dignity and spirit of the child by supporting, advocating for and educating families.

CentraCare Health opened the Child Advocacy Center in September 2016 to help children who have been physically, sexually or emotionally abused. By working closely with law enforcement, child protection, county attorneys, advocates, mental health and medical professionals in one location, the health system can ensure children receive the proper care and support during and after a child abuse investigation.

A team of individuals with backgrounds in child abuse investigations work together to help ensure that children and their families get access to appropriate medical and mental health services right away. This multidisciplinary team approach places the child’s interest first and ensures that they receive supportive care through the entire process.

The Child Advocacy Center is open weekdays to provide services to children and families when there is a concern of child abuse. All referrals come from local law enforcement or child protection. Services offered (regardless of the ability to pay) include:

  • Forensic interviews: a trained interviewer will listen and obtain factual information from the child.
  • Medical evaluations: trauma-informed medical evaluations completed at the CAC.
  • Mental health services: trauma-focused mental health services and resources are available.
  • Advocacy: an advocate will provide education, support and connect the family to local resources.

Each year CentraCare on average covers more than $350,000 for these services, including advocacy services, facility space and staff. Since opening in 2016, the Child Advocacy Center provided care for 468 children who experienced abuse, of which 80 were under age 3. Additionally, 360 caregivers received advocacy services. There are a total of eight staff at the CAC and additional partners from more than two dozen agencies and partnering organizations.

“The need for the services provided at the Child Advocacy Center has quickly surpassed our expectations,” said Dr. Geri Jacobson, pediatrician for CentraCare Health and medical director of the Child Advocacy Center. “We know there are more children and families who will be referred to us for care.”