A Child's Experience Without a CYAC
A Child's Experience With a CYAC

The Child & Youth Advocacy Centre Model

Child Advocacy Centres provide a coordinated approach to addressing the needs of child and youth victims and/or witnesses in the criminal justice system. They provide a single, child-friendly setting for young victims or witnesses and their families.

Department of Justice Canada, 2016

It became evident in the 1980s that the various agencies and departments responsible for the protection of children must be united in a collaborative effort to respond to child abuse cases. It was determined that public-private partnerships and multidisciplinary teams could effectively provide the necessary services for children, youth, and their families.

The first Child and Youth Advocacy Centre (CYAC) was established in Huntsville, Alabama in 1985 and brought together professionals from law enforcement, criminal justice, child protection services, and medical and mental health under one roof, where they worked together as a team in child abuse cases. This community partnership revolutionized the system response. Today, CYACs are regarded as a best practice in responding to child abuse cases. There are more than 900 centres in the United States and 12 other countries.

Approximately 25 CYACs are currently operating in Canada and several more are in the development stages. The national group, Child and Youth Advocacy Centres, offers resources, research, and guidance. It continues to finalize a Canadian vision and CYAC standards that all provinces can draw upon. The Child & Youth Advocacy Centres of Ontario Network spearheaded the initial development of provincial standards for Ontario Child & Youth Advocacy Centres.

As part of the accreditation process, Child & Youth Advocacy Centres must contain the following nine components:

  • A child and youth friendly facility

  • Multidisciplinary teams

  • Joint investigative interview(s)

  • Medical examination of the child or youth

  • Provision of mental health services

  • Victim advocacy

  • Case review

  • Case tracking

  • Clear organizational structure that supports CYAC work

A collective community response to help protect children from abuse

At its core, the Child Advocacy Centre model brings the system to the child rather than having a child taken from agency to agency throughout the law enforcement and child protection systems. The teamwork approach brings professionals together on the front end to put the needs of the child victim first and ensures effective, efficient, and child-centred services. The team collaborates on cases, takes action to prevent re-victimization, and supports the long-term well-being of children and non-offending family members.