Develop a CAC

How to Develop a New Child Advocacy Center

Children’s Advocacy Centers of Oklahoma want to help your community develop a child advocacy center (CAC) in your area. Children’s Advocacy Centers enhance coordination between community agencies and professionals involved in the intervention system. 

Each CAC in Oklahoma has become Accredited Members of the National Children’s Alliance whereby meeting the ten (10) Standards for Accredited Members and verifying their adherence to the highest standards of practice by submitting to the NCA site review. A CAC is a critical resource that serves as a child-focused, community-based center aimed at coordinating efforts to effectively respond to child abuse cases. Becoming an accredited member of the NCA signifies that a CAC adheres to high standards of practice and ensures the well-being of children who have experienced abuse.

If you are considering establishing a Children’s Advocacy Center in Oklahoma, it’s important to follow the outlined steps, engage with the relevant organizations and individuals, and ensure that the center operates in accordance with the highest standards of practice to provide effective support for children who have experienced abuse.

  1. Accreditation with NCA: Each Children’s Advocacy Center in Oklahoma has achieved accreditation from the National Children’s Alliance. This involves meeting ten specific standards set by NCA and undergoing a site review to verify adherence to these standards.

  2. Creating a Multidisciplinary Team (MDT): The first step in establishing a CAC is to form a Multidisciplinary Team (MDT). An MDT is composed of professionals from various disciplines, such as law enforcement, prosecution, child protective services, medical personnel, mental health professionals, victim advocacy, and more. This team collaborates to effectively respond to child abuse cases. If your community already has a developed MDT, connect with Roxanne Mayer at 918-805-1797 or to discuss the next steps. 

  3. Developing a Freestanding MDT (FSMDT): If your community doesn’t have an established MDT, you are advised to contact the Oklahoma Commission of Children and Youth (OCCY) to initiate the development of a Freestanding MDT.

  4. Phases of Development: Below outlines different phases involved in developing a Children’s Advocacy Center. These phases likely include activities such as building the MDT, creating a physical space for the center, establishing protocols and procedures, training staff and team members, and more.

  5. Timeline: The process from the initial stages of development to achieving accreditation can take around 18 to 24 months to complete. This timeframe highlights the complexity of establishing a fully functional and accredited CAC.

How to Develop a CAC

National Children’s Alliance (NCA), governing body for CACs, has developed a checklist to provide an outline of steps that must be addressed before a community can get started on creating a CAC. 

Many of the steps involved in establishing a CAC will happen concurrently, and the specific details can vary from community to community. This flexible approach recognizes that different communities have unique needs and resources. 

If a community is interested in starting a CAC, they are encouraged to contact Roxanne Mayer at 918-805-1797 or to discuss the next steps.  

NCA has a short video on the Benefits of NCA Membership. This can be a great way to learn more about membership and the importance of the CAC model. 

Learn about CACO Membership Levels here. 

By contacting CACO as early as possible in the development stages of a CAC, communities can benefit from the wealth of collective experience of successful, established CACs throughout Oklahoma. CACO can offer various forms of support, including resource materials, public presentations, training, ongoing guidance, and technical assistance.



Planning and Teambuilding Phase

  • Develop a committee or task force of key individuals:
    • Prosecution
    • Law Enforcement
    • Child Protection
    • Medical 
    • Mental Heath
    • Victim Advocacy
    • Community Cultural Representatives
    • Additional Community Leaders (considerations such as local officials, attorneys, and leaders of community organizations)
  • Determine which organization will take the lead in organizing the development process
  • Conduct a needs assessment of the extent of child abuse and neglect in the community
  • Develop vision and mission statements for the task force
  • Determine CAC service population
    • Age
    • Crime (sexual abuse, serious physical abuse, human trafficking, witness to violent crime, vulnerable adults, etc.)

Research and Policies Phase

  • Gather information on various CAC models
  • Select the CAC model that best suits the community’s needs

Funding and Development Phase

  • Identify funding sources
  • Develop multidisciplinary team protocol
  • Develop an Interagency Agreement or Memorandum of Understanding and obtain agency commitment
  • Determine which services will be offered on-site or through referrals
  • Select site and design or acquire space for a child-appropriate facility
  • Information technology policies
  • Determine staffing needs and agency roles

Accreditation Process

  1. Application Cycle Duration: The application cycle for accreditation with the National Children’s Alliance (NCA) can last up to twelve (12) months from the time the application is submitted until the initial recommendation form is voted on by the NCA Board. This period includes a detailed review and assessment of the center’s adherence to the NCA’s standards.

  2. Overall Development and Accreditation Timeframe: From the moment the development of the Children’s Advocacy Center is initiated, the entire process until the center is accredited can span between 18 to 24 months. This encompasses the various stages of development, including forming a multidisciplinary team (MDT), creating the physical center, establishing protocols, training staff, and fulfilling all necessary requirements for accreditation.

It’s clear that the establishment of a CAC and its subsequent accreditation is a meticulous process that ensures the highest standards are met to provide a safe and supportive environment for children who have experienced abuse. This timeline underscores the dedication and effort required to successfully establish and operate a Children’s Advocacy Center in line with NCA’s guidelines and expectations.

During this cycle, NCA strongly encourages applicants to refrain from any major changes in the organizational/governance structure. Such changes may result in the need for reevaluating the full application, the processes of service provision, and the way the CAC meets the accreditation standards. If the requirement for provision for this additional evidence cannot be fulfilled during the allotted accreditation cycle, the accreditation request may be declined. For questions or information regarding NCA Accreditation, including the application process, contact the Accreditation team at

COMPLIANCE Accreditation should be considered an ongoing process. Centers are required to maintain compliance of the standards at all times. If the standards are revised in the middle of a center’s accreditation cycle, the center must be compliant with the newly revised standards. A signed affidavit indicating compliance is required of all accredited members on an annual basis. NCA will contact all accredited centers on an annual basis to complete this affidavit.

As a requirement for ongoing membership, all Accredited, Associate/Developing, and Satellite members are required every six months to submit statistical data to NCA indicating the number of children seen, their demographics, and the services provided. The deadlines for submissions are July 15th and January 15th. Forms to submit this information are provided by NCA.

To obtain detailed instructions on how to submit this data and complete this membership requirement, CLICK HERE.

For the full list of required attachments for the accreditation application, please click HERE.  (This document lists out community needs assessment, communication and technology requirements, facility needs, required policies, financial responsibilities, etc.)

All Accreditation Applications require a Letter of Support from the state chapter, Children’s Advocacy Centers of Oklahoma, Inc. 

In Oklahoma, CACs are also required to complete a 3rd year accreditation review to maintain compliance to NCA Standards. 

Oklahoma State Statute

O.S. § § 1-9-103, 104

  • Child Abuse Multidisciplinary Account = CAMA
  • ~$5.6 million appropriated by the legislature to OKDHS
  • Distributed annually based on eligibility
    • CACs: Third Year Review, National Children’s Alliance accreditation
  • One child advocacy center, accredited by the National Children’s Alliance, per district attorney’s district.




Multidisciplinary Team (MDT):

A Children’s Advocacy Center has a multidisciplinary team for response to child abuse allegations which includes representation from the following:

  • Law Enforcement
  • Child Protective Services
  • Prosecution
  • Medical
  • Mental Health
  • Victim Advocacy
  • Children’s Advocacy Center

Diversity, Equity, and Access:

The Children’s Advocacy Center provides culturally
responsive services for all CAC clients throughout the
duration of the case.

Forensic Interviews:

Forensic interviews are coordinated to avoid duplicative
interviewing and are conducted in a manner that is
legally sound and of a neutral, fact-finding nature.

Victim Support and Advocacy :

Victim support and advocacy services are provided
to all CAC clients and their caregivers as part of the
multidisciplinary team response.

Medical Evaluation:

Specialized medical evaluation and treatment services
are available to all CAC clients and are coordinated
as part of the multidisciplinary team response.

Mental Health:

Evidence-based, trauma-focused mental health services,
designed to meet the unique needs of the child and caregivers, are consistently available as part of the multidisciplinary team

Case Review and Coordination:

A formal process in which multidisciplinary discussion
and information sharing regarding the investigation,
case status and services needed by the child and family is to occur on a routine basis.

Case Tracking:

Children’s Advocacy Centers must develop and implement a system for monitoring case progress and tracking case outcomes for all MDT components.

Organizational Capacity:

A designated legal entity responsible for program
and fiscal operations has been established and implements basic sound administrative policies and procedures.

Child Safety and Protection:

The CAC is comfortable, private, and both physically and psychologically safe for diverse populations of children and their family members.

The physical space of a Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) plays a crucial role in supporting its operations and fulfilling its mission to provide a safe and child-friendly environment for children who have experienced abuse.  There isn’t a single prescribed way to build, design, or decorate a CAC.  Each center may have unique needs and considerations based on their community, resources, and the specific services they intend to offer.  When designing the CAC, it’s important to consider future growth and the potential need for additional space.  As caseloads increase and new program components are added, the facility should be adaptable to accommodate these changes.