Responding to child abuse and neglect involves protecting children from harm and supporting families to reduce the risk of future harm to children. When Child Protective Services (in NJ this is known as Division of Child Protective and Permanency, or DCP&P) staff receive reports from professionals and concerned citizens alerting them to concerns about a child’s welfare, they may initiate an investigation to determine if a child has been or is at risk of being harmed. Staff may also assess the child’s and family’s needs or engage in other interventions to support the family’s efforts to provide a safe, nurturing environment for their children. A child may then be referred to a Child Advocacy Center (CAC), where a Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) will work together to provide the best possible services to the child and family
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A child advocacy center is the ONE place that provides a safe, child-friendly environment where law enforcement, child protective services, prosecution, medical and mental health professionals may share information and develop effective, coordinated strategies sensitive to the needs of each unique case and child.
A multi-disciplinary team, or MDT, working within a Child Advocacy Center is a team of professionals that come from different disciplines and agencies to provide cohesive services to the child and family. These professionals work together to coordinate services such as medical exams, forensic interviews, victim advocacy, counseling, investigation, prosecution, and more. The hope of providing these services in a coordinated and collaborative way is to provide support for the child and their family throughout every step of the process and aid them on their path to healing.
The MDT approach to child abuse investigations provides many benefits, including:
- Lowering the amount of trauma to the child because they only have to tell their story once versus re-telling it to each professional.
- Teamwork and shared ideas can lead to better treatments and interventions for the client
- Enhanced quantity and quality of referrals made
- A larger support system
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To report possible child abuse, call New Jersey’s Child Abuse/Neglect Hotline at 1 (877) NJ ABUSE (652-2873) (TTY/TDD use 1 (800) 835-5510. Outside the state of New Jersey, call (800) 422-4453. They are available and will respond 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If a child is in immediate danger, you should call 911.