Finding a way to demonstrate outcomes (Version 2)
Children's advocacy centers fill an important role in connecting children and families to the care and services they need to reduce the impact of an experience with abuse. Across North Carolina and South Carolina, children's advocacy centers provide a way for communities to respond to children who have been sexually, emotionally or physcially abused. Focused on what's best for the child, advocacy centers bring together collaborative partners—including medical and mental health providers, child protective services, law enforcement officers and prosecutors—to provide services.
In June 2004, for a trial period, The Duke Endowment added children's advocacy centers in North Carolina and South Carolina to its group of eligible grantees. The centers had all met national accreditation standards, but initial grant requests showed little agreement regarding what constituted a good outcome and how it should be measured.
If children's advocacy centers were to become ongoing Endowment grantees, there needed to be a way to demonstrate the impact they had on the children and families they served. The Endowment wanted the centers to measure that impact and show how they make a significant difference in their communities.
Figuring out what to measure, however, wasn't easy. Children's advocacy centers shape themselves to the needs of individual communities, so they all work differently. Some agencies see 1,000 children a year. Some, in rural areas, see only 50 children in a year.
What's more, approximately one-third of the participating centers had little to no experience with evaluation, while just over half had moderate experience.
The Duke Endowment contracted with Innovation Network, a nonprofit in Washington, D.C., to help design a consistent evaluation process.
Over three years, Innovation Network provided training and one-on-one technical assistance to more than 30 centers in North Carolina and South Carolina. Through workshops and conversations that bridged state lines, the groups successfully developed a workable logic model, a common set of outcomes, and a set of standardized data collection instruments.
The Endowment grant also included training in a computer software program that helped the centers collect and manage data, and the Endowment paid for a first-year subscription. The software program, developed by the National Children's Alliance, allowed the centers to input information into a common database and generate uniform reports.
In North Carolina:
In South Carolina:
With an advocacy center's help, one North Carolina family finds healing
The mother's voice drops to barely a whisper when she talks about the past.
Years ago, she explains, a relative abused her 5-year-old child. Hoping to find a way for her family to heal, she sought help at the Children's Advocacy Center of Catawba County. The center, in Conover, N.C., was founded in 1998 as a child-focused and family-friendly place for victims and their non-offending family members.
"In the beginning, you're just very shocked and scared and you don't know who to talk to, where to go, if anyone can really help you," the mother remembers. "Most of all, you want to tell your story and you want to be heard and you want to be understood. You want someone to tell you that they know what you've been through and what you can do to start getting your life back together."
The children's advocacy center offered a safe haven as healing began.
"For myself, I just needed someone to talk to, someone who understood," the mother says. "It's really difficult to talk to family and friends because something like this is so shocking. They don't understand and they don't know what to say to you or help you. And so you end up just keeping it to yourself unless you do have a place to go like a children's advocacy center."
Without the help they found there, it would have taken family members much longer to heal.
"The center provided us a path to becoming a whole, happy family again. It takes a long time for that to happen anyway, but without these services, I think the progress would have been a lot slower."
The mother says her daughter is now eight years old—and "doing wonderful today."
Photo: Children's Advocacy Center of Catawba County
Caption: The Children's Advocacy Center of Catawba County is in the historic Bolick home, which was renovated with the help of more than $45,000 in donations from the community. It provides a child and family-friendly atmosphere with two interview rooms, a family resource room, a private exam room for forensic medical exams, meeting space, and a playground outside.
Philip H. Redmond Jr.
Associate Director of Child Care