The Sangamon County Child Advocacy Center is dedicated to a coordinated, multidisciplinary approach to child abuse investigations in Logan, Sangamon, Christian and Menard counties. We strive to provide a safe, child focused setting for investigations of child abuse, ensure victims and their families receive quality services, and raise awareness in the community to combat child abuse.
The National Children’s Advocacy Center in Huntsville, AL, a program that opened in 1985, served as the model for the Sangamon County Center, as well as now nearly 600 children’s advocacy centers across the country. Each community starting a Child Advocacy Center first had to convince the child welfare professionals, law enforcement, and prosecutors to overhaul how the criminal justice system responded to child victims. Sangamon County professionals were asked to do the very same thing when the model was introduced to them in 1987.
In 1986 a concerned group of people joined forces to improve the system’s response to sexually abused children. Their goals were to sensitize the system to the needs of these young victims by reducing the number of interviews a child must go through, limiting the number of professionals with whom a child must have contact, and expediting these cases through the judicial system. After much research, numerous meetings, and visits to existing Advocacy Centers across the country, the Sangamon County Child Advocacy Center (SCCAC) was established on July 10, 1989.
In 2019, the Sangamon County Child Advocacy Center celebrated its 30th anniversary, with continued hope that each child who comes to the SCCAC senses an environment of protection and safety.
Our MDT Approach
To understand what a Children's Advocacy Center (CAC) is, you must understand what children face without one. Without a CAC, the child may end up having to tell the worst story of his or her life over and over again, to doctors, law enforcement, lawyers, therapists, investigators, judges, and others. They may have to talk about that traumatic experience in a police station where they think they might be in trouble, or may be asked the wrong questions by a well-meaning teacher or other adult that could hurt the case against the abuser.
With a CAC, when police or DCFS believe a child is being abused, the child is brought to the CAC—a safe, child-focused environment—by a caregiver or other “safe” adult. At the CAC, the child tells their experience once to a trained interviewer who knows the right questions to ask in a way that does not re-traumatize the child. Then, a team that includes medical professionals, law enforcement, mental health, prosecution, child protective services, victim advocacy, and other professionals make decisions together about how to help the child based on the interview. CACs offer therapy and medical exams, plus courtroom preparation, victim advocacy, case management, and other services. This is called the multidisciplinary team (MDT) response and is a core part of the work of CACs. Without CACs, children would have to speak to 10-12 different people during an investigation of child abuse, repeating their story many times. Since the creation of CACs, children are able to visit the CAC and talk to one person while the MDT views the interview & coordinates the investigation.
The Sangamon County Child Advocacy Center saw 363 children in 2020.
Your child is the center of our MDT approach. All agencies work together to investigate your child’s case. Investigations often take months to be completed.
Once the investigation is complete, your advocate will take the case to the State’s Attorney’s Office for review.
Your advocate will stay in touch with you throughout the process. We encourage you to contact your advocate with any questions as they arise.
The victim advocates provide services to victims and their non-offending family members from the time the case is opened through disposition. The victim advocate initially meets with non-offending family members to gather basic information, listen to his/her concerns, and explain the investigative and legal process. They also assess needed service referrals, provide medical and court advocacy, and keep the victim and family members up to date on the status of the case.
The forensic interviewer is specially trained to interview children who have alleged abuse. The job of the interviewer is to conduct a neutral, fact finding interview with the child. The interviewer and the child will be the only two people in the interview room.
The interview room is separated from an observation room by a two-way mirror. DCFS and Law Enforcement investigators will be in the observation room. Ultimately, in the child’s best interest, it is our policy that parents are not allowed to observe interviews.
Parents are NOT allowed to observe a child’s interview for several reasons:
- It can be distracting for the child to know his/her parents are watching
- A child may be less willing, or able, to share the details of abuse with a parent observing
- It can be very distressing as a parent to hear the details of abuse in which they may have been unaware
- There may be parents who will try to convince their child to change his/her story
You can be assured that your child will be treated with respect.
A trauma informed counselor is available on-site or via telehealth for victims and their non-offending family members. The counselor works to assist in the healing process, assessing needs, feelings, and other related issues. After a disclosure of abuse is made by a child, their life can change dramatically. The counselor will assist the MDT in making sound decisions for the child’s health and safety while maintaining confidentiality. The counselor on staff is trained in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) and can help with a variety of issues including anxiety, depression, and PTSD symptoms. Counseling services at the CAC are free to victims and their non-offending family members who have disclosed abuse at the CAC during their forensic interview. If you are interested in these services, contact your advocate.
Students in grades K-6 hear a personal safety lesson that uses a safety rule format. The program teaches the safety rule that “no one should touch the private parts of your body unless it is to keep you clean or healthy.” Our personal safety programs are specifically designed to meet the developmental needs of each age group/grade level. All programs encourage children to talk to a grown up.
If you would like to learn more about the personal safety programs offered by the center, please call 1-217-522-2241.
The Child Advocacy staff provides training to parents, teachers, and other professionals on the role of the Child Advocacy Center, the dynamics of sexual/physical abuse, handling disclosures, and mandated reporting.
If you would like to learn more about training programs offered by the center, please call 1-217-522-2241.
CASA – Court Appointed Special Advocates
The Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) is a community volunteer who is appointed by a judge to represent the best interest of an abused and/or neglected child in juvenile court.
Prior to being assigned, a CASA volunteer undergoes 40 hours of training on pertinent topics such as, child development, indicators of abuse, separation and attachment, cultural awareness, communication, the court system, and more.
The CASA Volunteer works independently for the court alongside attorneys and case workers. A CASA Volunteer researches all that is happening in a child’s life. The volunteer interviews all of the involved parties then reports those findings back to the presiding Juvenile Court Judge. The CASA Volunteer speaks to the best interest of the child or children for whom they are assigned.
Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) is the only volunteer organization that empowers everyday citizens as appointed members of the court. In an overburdened social welfare system, abused and neglected children often slip through the cracks among hundreds of current cases. CASA volunteers can change that. Appointed by judges, CASA volunteers typically handle just one case at a time—and commit to staying on that case until the child is placed in a safe, permanent home. While others may come and go, CASA volunteers provide that one constant that children need in order to thrive.
Need for CASA Volunteers
Each year, nationally around 75,000 CASA and GAL volunteers advocated for about half of the children in the child welfare system at any given time. Our volunteers are an amazing force for good, but we need more of them. Our vision is that every child who needs a volunteer will have one. With your help, we can reach that goal.
People who give their time to CASA advocacy come from many different places. Some have years of education and professional experience working for children and families. Some have themselves grown up in the foster care system and felt the sorrow of having to move from home to home.
Being a CASA volunteer does not require any special education or background, simply the desire to help abused and neglected children find safe, permanent homes.
If you are interested in becoming a CASA volunteer you may contact us at 1-217-522-2241.
How to Make a Report of Child Abuse
To report a case of child abuse, please call 1-800-252-2873
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services Hotline operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
If your report does not meet the criteria of the Hotline, please contact your local police department to make a report.
Executive Director: Denise Johnson - Denise.Johnson@sangamonil.gov
Program Director: Michelle Norris - Michelle.Norris@sangamonil.gov
Advocate: Cody Haley – Cody.Haley@sangamonil.gov
Advocate: Breanna Bradley – Breanna.Bradley@sangamonil.gov
Advocate: Sam Schone – Samantha.Dubois@sangamonil.gov
Forensic Interview Supervisor/MDT Coordinator: Nate Colwell - Nate.Colwell@sangamonil.gov
Forensic Interviewer: Tiffani Green – Tiffani.Green@sangamonil.gov
Mental Health Therapist: Mary Dahlem - Mary.Dahlem@sangamonil.gov
Mental Health Therapist: Destiny Serrao - Destiny.Serrao@sangamonil.gov
Outreach Coordinator: John Scheller - John.Scheller@sangamonil.gov
CASA Program Director: Jen Dowd - Jennifer.Dowd@sangamonil.gov
CASA Volunteer Coordinator: Shauna Kalaskie – Shauna.Kalaskie@sangamonil.gov
CASA Volunteer Coordinator: Sharine Belfellah – Sharine.Belfellah@sangamonil.gov
CASA Volunteer Coordinator: Adriane Beck – Adriane.Beck@sangamonil.gov
Grans Manager: Barbara Nowack