Children's Advocacy Center

Luzed L. Cruz, Children's Advocacy Center Manager
Executive Director Children's Services Council

Email: Lcruz@highlandsfl.gov
1968 Sebring Parkway, Sebring, Fl 33870
Phone: (863) 402-6845


Why We Exist:

“It shouldn't hurt to be a kid” and because of the Children’s Advocacy Center, child victims of abuse have a safe place to tell their story and feel secure in the knowledge that their abuser cannot reach them. The Advocacy Center provides a child-friendly facility, where victims of abuse can come and feel safe, while all agencies involving themselves in the case are available, on site, to meet the needs of the child.

The mission of the Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) is to minimize trauma of child abuse victims and provide prevention support to families needing assistance in keeping them intact. The CAC fulfills our mission by collaboratively coordinating all disciplines in the abuse field and bringing them together at the CAC to interview, evaluate and collectively make decisions. The CAC’s response reduces trauma to the victim, aids in more immediate follow-up on child abuse reports, aims to make offenders accountable for their actions, reduces costly and repetitious interviews, aids in more complete medical and mental health referrals and eliminates the duplication of efforts among agencies working in this arena. Children are better protected and their healing is more complete because of the CAC and the Multidisciplinary Team. In addition, because of enhanced accountability, government agencies are quicker to remove themselves from families where intervention is not justified.

The Children’s Advocacy Center is a program of the Highlands County Board of County Commissioners (Board) and falls under the Community Programs Department.  It is governed & funded by the Board with guidance from the Children’s Services Council’s subcommittee “CAC Advisory Board”.  The CAC is tasked with aiding the Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) in their respective roles.  The MDT is comprised of Core Disciplines: Law Enforcement, Department of Children & Families, Mental Health, Child Protection Team- Forensic Interviewers, Victim & Family Advocates and Medical Professionals.  In addition, the CAC maintains strong relationships with other service providers in the community such as: Guardian Ad Litem, Department of Juvenile Justice, Highlands County School Board, Champion for Children Foundation, One Hope United, Peace River Center, SCARF and Heart of Florida Legal Aid.

The CAC in Highlands County has been accredited since 1998 and received its most recent accreditation from the National Children’s Alliance in June 2018.

Benefits of having a Children’s Advocacy Center In Your Community:

  • Reduced trauma to Child Victims
  • Child abuse reports are investigated more promptly and more thoroughly through the MDT.
  • More offenders are held accountable because prosecutions are more successful.
  • The number of costly and repetitious child victim interviews is greatly reduced.
  • Medical and mental health referrals are completed more efficiently and treatments are trauma-focused.
  • Child victims and their non-offending caregivers participate in healing together.
  • Duplication of effort is eliminated.
  • Prevention & Education of the community, stakeholders, and professionals is increased and evidence-base

Duty To Report:

According to Florida law, it is the duty of every person residing in the state to report the suspicion of child abuse. Some professionals are mandated to give their name when making a report, but most calls can be made anonymously. Suspected child abuse calls can be made to the Florida Abuse Registry Hotline at: 1(800) 96 ABUSE or 1(800) 962-2873 or via online report at: Report Abuse Online.
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