Trending Topics in Child Advocacy with Chris Newlin
In early 2021, we had the opportunity to interview Chris Newlin, Executive Director of the National Children’s Advocacy Center. In the mid-1980’s Chris helped pioneer the concept of a children’s advocacy center (CAC), originally developed by Alabama District Attorney Robert Kramer, as a way to help children victimized by abuse. Over the last 30 years, the National Children’s Advocacy Center has operated both as a child advocacy center in Huntsville, AL, and has grown to lead best practices and training programs around the world.
In this discussion, Chris provides a unique perspective on some of the most pressing topics in child advocacy today, such as secondary traumatic stress, COVID, and VOCA funding. Summaries of these discussions are provided below and a recording of the full interview is provided at the end.
Secondary Traumatic Stress
The culture of the industry has historically blamed child advocacy professionals for their inability to sustain the pressures of the difficult work. Chris explains that this has led to constant turnover for a highly-trained workforce. In recent years, experts have identified that secondary traumatic stress, which results in compassion fatigue, is preventable with a supportive work environment. Child advocacy professionals, much like physicians, fire fighters, and law enforcement officers, are routinely subjected to traumatic situations and can be hurt by that recurring exposure to child trauma. In order to retain professional and personal wellbeing and limit turnover, this is an increasingly important topic for the field to address.
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Impact of Covid on Child Advocacy
COVID-19 has been a challenge for many, and child advocacy has not been spared. Chris Newlin points out that much of child advocacy work is better done in person. This includes services for children, families, and support staff. However, he acknowledges that COVID restrictions have created some advantages including easier access to training, more telehealth options for therapy services, and flexibility with office space. Chris advocates for the importance of human connection in the difficult work that CACs do, and indicates that his team at the National Children’s Advocacy Center are getting feedback that many others in the field feel the same.
VOCA Funding to Child Advocacy
On our live call we ask Chris Newlin about pressing legal and policy issues currently affecting child advocacy, and he immediately addresses funding through the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA). Chris explains why this fund is depleting and shares details on the nonpartisan legislative bill needed to restore it. Without a VOCA fix, he warns that crime victim services, including CACs, are anticipating funding cuts of fifty percent or more, leaving hundreds of thousands of victims without the support they need for justice and healing.
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Hope for Child Abuse Survivors
While the field is facing many challenges, Newlin is anxious to point out the reasons to be hopeful. The CAC model has made a meaningful impact on child abuse. “We really focus on the triumph and the overcoming,” states Chris. “We see these kids graduating from therapy and they are happy, productive, and they have their life back.” Across the US, over 900 CACs have been established using the CAC model, and Chris emphasizes that we are making progress with cases of child sexual abuse down as much as 50 percent in the last 20 years. “We should be proud of that,” he says.
VidaNyx is proud of our community of CACs leading the mission of protecting kids. More than 40,000 children have been given better access to justice and healing with secure multidisciplinary team collaboration through VidaNyx.