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Spotlight: April - Child Abuse Prevention Month

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, which has been observed each April since Ronald Reagan established it by presidential proclamation in 1983. Millions of Americans have participated in this campaign, many at the state and local level. It is imperative that communities work together to protect vulnerable children from abuse, and increased awareness is an essential element in this endeavor. 


One local organization that contributes to this important work is the Sangamon County Child Advocacy Center (CAC).  Denise Johnson, Executive Director of the CAC, explains, “We have a dedicated staff of professionals who work each day to protect children. April is a month to educate the public on the dangers that are out there and raise awareness of the signs of child abuse.” 


The Sangamon County CAC was established in July 1989 and has been serving Sangamon County families for 35 years. It was modeled after the National Children’s Advocacy Center in Huntsville, Alabama which opened in 1985. Today there are over 600 child advocacy centers across the country. The core focus of these centers is to provide a multidisciplinary team approach to cases where child abuse is suspected. Unlike a traditional criminal investigation, under the multidisciplinary approach, the child is interviewed once by a trained forensic interviewer in a way that does not re-traumatize the child. Then, a team of professionals, which includes medical and mental health providers, law enforcement, prosecutors, and others, make decisions together about how to help the child based on the interview and specific facts of the case. Therapists are on site to assist young victims and provide trauma focused therapy. Victim advocates provide services to victims and family members from the time the case is opened for investigation through disposition.


Since its inception, the Sangamon County CAC has served thousands of children and helped them cope with the traumatic effects of child abuse. Initially only dealing with sexually abused children, over the years the CAC expanded to help child victims of physical abuse. Assistant State’s Attorney Kendra Hansel who handles a number of CAC cases notes that the CAC “provides a team concept to the investigation and prosecution of these sensitive cases and strives to not only hold the offender accountable, but also to protect and help these vulnerable child victims.”


According to Denise Johnson, “The Sangamon County Child Advocacy Center is dedicated to a coordinated approach to child abuse investigations. We strive to provide a safe, child-focused setting for investigations to ensure victims and their families receive quality services, and to raise awareness in the community to combat child abuse.” The CAC is not just for Sangamon County, but also serves Logan, Christian, and Menard County residents with its multidisciplinary approach. Prevention education is another focal point of the CAC. The in-house outreach coordinator travels to schools and speaks to groups on the dangers posed by predators in the community and how to recognize signs of child sexual and physical abuse.


Those interested in learning more about the CAC’s outreach services can contact outreach coordinator John Scheller at (217) 522-2241.


The Friends of the Sangamon County CAC is holding a Trivia Night Fundraiser on April 20, 2024. Tables and sponsorships are available. For more information please contact breanna.bradley@sangamonil.gov.


To report suspected child abuse call the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services Child Abuse Hotline at (800) 252-2873. 







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