Before child advocacy centers were created, child victims of crime often had to tell their stories to more than a dozen adults—police officers, prosecutors, doctors, and social workers. They could be shuttled all over town giving depositions, getting medical exams, and, if the family had no money to pay for treatment, be put on long waiting lists for free counseling services.
Denver Children’s Advocacy Center was founded in 1995 after over 300 professionals in Denver came together to report that child victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence were “falling through the cracks” in a system that was supposed to save them.
Initially, we provided treatment to child victims, ages seven to seventeen.
DCAC Leads the Way in Child Advocacy
By 2000, we began to treat babies and toddlers, recognizing that they too required therapy and supportive services to recover. When Dr. Gizane Indart joined DCAC in 2002, we expanded services to the underserved Spanish-speaking families who had limited treatment options.
In 2003, the City Club of Denver honored DCAC with the James Grafton Rogers Award for “an extraordinary and timeless contribution to the quality of life in the Denver region.”
DCAC Improves Forensic Interviewing of Children
In 2004, DCAC signed a memorandum of understanding with the Denver Police Department, the Denver District Attorney’s Office and the Denver Department of Human Services to conduct all forensic interviews of children who have experienced sexual abuse or witnessed homicide or a violent crime. Our Forensic Interview Program is designed to help children feel as safe and comfortable as possible as they work with members of our multi-disciplinary team.
DCAC Demonstrates that Prevention Works
In 2005, we launched Denver Safe from the Start in partnership with Denver Public Schools. With children six and under making up half of DCAC’s treatment caseload, we wanted to reach the most vulnerable ones before abuse could occur. Research-based evaluation shows that this program for children ages 3-10 helps to keep kids safe.
DCAC Understands the Impact of Trauma
Child victims of abuse, neglect and exposure to violence suffer from trauma, which affects every aspect of their life: brain development, sexual development, language development, and memory development. In 2007, we adopted a new and promising trauma-informed approach to treatment that adapts the intervention based on the child’s developmental stage at the time the trauma began. This evidence-based practice is now widespread and DCAC provides training in the practice for other mental health professionals.
DCAC Reaches Out to the Community
Dr. Jerry Yager joined DCAC in 2011 to lead the newly created Community Education and Training Program, which provides trauma-informed training to adults working with high risk children—therapists, foster parents, caseworkers, police, prosecutors, victim advocates, medical doctors, school personnel and family members. In 2013, we began a new initiative to take mental health care into the community, serving children and families in their homes, early childhood centers, and schools – where our interventions can have the most impact.
DCAC Completes its Child-Friendly Campus
In 2014, our Medical House opened. We designed the house in partnership with Denver Health so that when a forensic interview indicates a need for a medical exam, children can simply go next door, rather than travel to the hospital. With three welcoming “gingerbread” houses on our Children’s Campus, all the services needed by child victims and their families are now clustered in one central location.
DCAC Turns 20
In 2015, we celebrated our 20th anniversary. From serving fewer than 300 children annually in 1995, with no home of our own, and no bilingual staff, DCAC now serves more than 6,000 people with a staff of 19, more than half of whom are bilingual. As we grow the capacity of our Children’s Campus, we are also expanding our outreach into the community. We don’t wait for high-risk and fragile families to find us – we go to them.