Huntsville, Ala. (WHNT) – This year marks the thirtieth anniversary for the National Child Advocacy Center. The NCAC was the first child advocacy center in the world, and continues to provide prevention and intervention services for child abuse. NCAC Executive Director, Chris Newlin, dropped by WHNT News 19 to give us his perspective on how this program is still changing lives and making an international impact.
Former Congressman Robert E. “Bud” Cramer began the program when he was district attorney in 1985.
“At that time our country was just starting to come to grips with the issue of child abuse.” explained Newlin.
“We just didn’t have collaborative responses that were working, especially for kids.”
The traditional criminal justice system wasn’t set up to respond well to the needs of child victims. “So this model of a child advocacy center where we could have one child friendly place where children come when there’s allegations of abuse, and you can bring together all the different disciplines into one setting, and they can work in a coordinated manner on behalf of kids to help protect them was a novel approach that was started in this community, and has now had tremendous ripple effects across the country and internationally in the protection of children.”
The involvement of the NCAC with child victims is considerable because the needs of those victims are extensive. Chris Newlin says the NCAC is involved in “everything from interviewing children and medical exams of children when there’s allegations of abuse, and family advocacy and victim advocacy, services and therapy so that they can recover from their experiences. It means they don’t have to go to a lot of different places and feeling very overwhelmed by a system that’s not geared toward them. The whole idea was to wrap the system around the needs of each individual child and family so we can do the best for each of them.”
The NCAC has had a global impact. There are currently more that 850 CAC’s around the U.S. and according to Newlin, “Last year all these programs that were modeled on what we started here in Huntsville served over 325 thousand children, but there’s also CAC’s operating in 25 other countries around the world, and there’s probably another 20 countries that are seeking to develop these programs because they see it’s not just a U.S. thing or say a Swedish thing. This is about the most appropriate response regardless of the political stance. This is an a political issue. How can we best respond to this issue of the abuse of children, so that we can help children recover and allow them to become productive citizens later in life.”
View our conversation with NCAC Executive Director, Chris Newlin in its entirety here: