Get to know this Memphis business in this Q&A with Memphis Child Advocacy Center:
Why Memphis? Why this location?
Our founders opened the Memphis Child Advocacy Center because our community needed a more efficient, compassionate response to reported abuse. The Memphis CAC provides a child-friendly location for kids, families, and professionals from multiple agencies to meet together. The recently enhanced and expanded campus allows us to provide more intensive services to more families. This is especially important because Shelby County has the highest rate of child sexual abuse in Tennessee.
What does your business do or provide?
Our mission is to help kids find safety and healing after sexual abuse or other severe abuse. The Shelby County Child Protection Investigation Team (CPIT) is headquartered at the Memphis CAC. Made up of 15 agencies, CPIT is responsible for investigating and responding to reported child abuse. CAC staff support children and families through therapy, victim advocacy, and forensic interviewing. We coordinate services with our CPIT partners—law enforcement, child protective services, the District Attorney’s Office, and other agencies. As a result, families have one central location to get the help they need from multiple agencies. We also offer Stewards of Children sexual abuse prevention and response training for parents and professionals who work with kids. Our ultimate goal is to prevent child sexual abuse from happening in the first place.
What makes your business stand out?
The public private partnership headquartered at the Memphis Child Advocacy Center is a best practice model used across the country. We were the fourteenth child advocacy center to open in the U.S. Today there are over 800. Our streamlined team approach shortens investigation time and enhances effectiveness. This keeps costs down while maximizing communication between the agencies involved.
Before we opened our doors, children were interviewed several times in different locations—places like the criminal justice complex at 201 Poplar. Now kids have a welcoming place where they can be interviewed once—and get all the services they need to find safely and healing.
Another thing that makes us stand out is our Bear Wall. When a child visits the CAC for the first time, he gets to choose a brand-new teddy bear. Getting to pick out his own teddy bear lets him know he’s worthy of care and protection. It is one of many ways we combat the undeserved shame of child abuse.
Who is your target market?
We’re in business for children who need protection from abuse. We provide many services toward this end. Our specialized interviewers help children share their truth after a report of abuse has been made. This benefits the child as well as the investigators working the case. Our victim advocates connect struggling families with resources like transportation, affordable housing and utility assistance—enabling families to focus on their child’s healing. Our therapists work with both children and non-offending parents or caregivers. Our community outreach and public awareness activities focus on training adults to prevent and respond to child abuse--ultimately benefiting vulnerable children as well.
why did your business expand and How will this change affect your organization’s mission for the future?
There are several reasons we expanded our campus. Over the years, the number of children who visit the CAC annually has grown. We continually update our programs to stay current with emerging best practice. As a result, we are providing more intensive services to more families. We needed more private space for difficult conversations.
In addition, we wanted to move more agency partner staff onsite. Our expanded campus is now home to all the investigative units of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services in Shelby County. The Shelby County Crime Victims and Rape Crisis Center also has opened a clinic onsite, geared especially for kids.
Our mission is the same—helping victims become children again. Our expanded and enhanced campus is helping us do that even more effectively.