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CAC Spotlight

Tulalip Children's Advocacy Center

by Leila Goldsmith

January 31, 2012

1. How did you get started?
Our program started within the Indian Child Welfare (ICW) program at Tulalip Tribes.  A former ICW Manager passed on her vision of a Child Advocacy Center on the Reservation when there was barely a handful of programs in Indian Country.  Her protégé, Misty Napeahi, hired me to start a CAC at Tulalip in 2007.  We started from ground zero, identifying allies in other programs and in the community. 

The first two important steps we took were to begin meeting with tribal detectives on current cases, and hosting a training called “Pathway to Hope,” bringing in trainers from Alaska to share about healing from childhood sexual abuse.  We invited people from all walks of life, retirees, young people, therapists and community members and elders who were outspoken about the issue. It began an important conversation about how to heal from trauma, and how to navigate these issues in a small, tribal community.

Over time, we have settled on three areas on which we focus:  
(1) Outreach and Education, which we hope leads to prevention of child abuse; 
(2) Enhancing Accountability for Offenders including holding regular MDT meetings, providing for advanced training for allied professionals; and 
(3) Offering a Healing Path for children who are victims of sexual violence and severe physical abuse.  We also serve their non-offending family members.  This entails all of the direct services we provide including specialized child forensic interviews, transport to SANE exams, ongoing support, and specialized therapeutic treatment using a native-based adaptation of Trauma Focused-Cognitive Behavioral Therapy using the model propounded by Project Making Medicine at the University of Oklahoma.

2. Where are you in the process?
Our first commitment as a program in its baby stages was to meet regularly with tribal law enforcement to forge trust and test out their openness to true collaboration on cases.  Tribal Police were our first partners, our best partners in the fight to end sexual violence against children.  Out of that beginning of a team, a few of us sitting around the table in a detective’s office, we have expanded to having bi-weekly large-scale MDT meetings. Our Tulalip MDT includes Tribal Police, the F.B.I., Tribal Child Advocates, the F.B.I. Victim Specialist, a medical specialist, a child therapist, Indian Child Welfare, State CPS, Tribal Prosecution, an Assistant U.S. Attorney and Federal Probation.

The tribal culture makes it easy, in some ways, to reach a high level collaboration.  Whereas sometimes in “Mainstream” people come to the table because of an MOU and chain of command, I have found that people here naturally understand the need to work together, and to share responsibility for community problems. These are mores I hear echoed all over Indian Country, and it is an enormous strength for the tribes who desire to create CACs in Indian Country.  

We moved out of the Indian Child Welfare building over a year ago, when we were given the old police station as a building to share with the domestic violence victim advocacy program.  Through Federal grant funding we have been able to equip a new child forensic interview room in the building with an observation room for up to 8 observers.  That likely seems like a lot of observers.  Not so for us!  We often have double the number of professionals involved in any given case, since we have Federal and Tribal jurisdiction running concurrently.  We may have a Tribal detective, an FBI Agent, a tribal victim advocate, the FBI Victim Specialist, State CPS and an ICW social worker observing an interview.  We also have been training a back-up interviewer since our main child interviewer went on maternity leave this year.  We have been inundated with furnishing our building, keeping up on current cases and training staff hired through grant funds.  While we would love to pursue accreditation, the staff time required to focus on this has not been available.  

3. What have been your successes?

We are thrilled with the results we are seeing in children using the Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) model. One of our therapists is traveling to Oklahoma next week to present on two of her cases that went through all of the modules of TF-CBT.  Our Child Advocate is able to provide transportation for child victims to therapy appointments.  We find that being located on the Reservation has a very positive effect on our ability to reach victims, and to continually evaluate what they and their families need. 

We also are currently working with Buffalo Star People, a non-profit run by a Lakota couple from S. Dakota, who have started a Healing Circle model for adults desiring healing from childhood trauma. As we understood the need to have healthy adults in the community who are able to protect and support children, we became convinced that providing a healing path for adults is a key to bringing real change to the community at large.  Dr. Barbara Bettelyoun, a clinical psychologist and her husband, Francis Bettelyoun, an outspoken survivor of childhood sexual abuse, have helped us greatly as a program in many different arenas including understanding the need for us as professionals to create a supportive and healing workplace so that we can do our good, hard work out of strength and health.

4. What are you struggling with?
As with all programs across the country, we are struggling to obtain adequate funding that is sustainable.

Starting a CAC in your Community

The following is a checklist developed by the National Children’s Alliance (NCA) summarizing the tasks that need to be completed in establishing a Children’s Advocacy Center.  While the activities are listed in approximate order, some will need to take place concurrently and there will be variations in each community.

  • Convene a working committee or task force of key individuals
  • Select leadership
  • Conduct a needs assessment of the extent of the problem in the community  
  • Develop vision and mission statements
  • Determine CAC service population
  • Gather information on various CAC models
  • Select the CAC approach that best suits the community  
  • Develop Interagency agreement and obtain agency commitment  
  • Determine organizational structure
  • Determine which services will be offered on-site or through  referrals
  • Select site and design or acquire space for child-appropriate facility  
  • Determine staffing needs and agency roles  
  • Develop multidisciplinary team protocols
  • Research potential sources of support

CACWA offers support and technical assistance to communities wishing to develop a Children's Advocacy Center. Contact us at


Children's Advocacy Centers of Washington
1800 Cooper Point Rd. SW #14
Olympia, WA 98502
Phone 360.753.3703 Toll-free 866.235.4716 FAX 360.528.8203