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Durham University

Department of Sociology

Completed Projects

Child Advocacy Project

A research project of the Department of Sociology.


Developed initially in the US in the 1980s, the Child Advocacy Centre (CAC) model has been proposed internationally as a response to many problems associated with standard responses to child sexual abuse (CSA) including the lack of therapeutic services, low conviction rates, potentially traumatic investigations processes and inter-agency conflicts about ways in which to manage cases of CSA (Herbert and Bromfield, 2016). The CAC model aims to address these problems through a combination of multidisciplinary teams and services and joint investigations provided in a single child-friendly environment. 


Durham Constabulary has successfully bid to the Home Office for a two-year ‘proof of concept’ pilot to assess the applicability of the CAC model in County Durham and to consider whether such an approach would improve outcomes for children affected by sexual abuse. As part of this overall aim, the pilot will give an opportunity to:

  • test the overall concept that specialised multi-disciplinary teams can add to existing structures and responses and lead to an improved focus in investigating abuse;
  • identify best practice; and
  • to consider next steps in the development of the approach in the local area.


  • Analysis of referral and case data (including police and criminal justice data) and the implementation of a standard client service receipt inventory in order to understand the nature of cases dealt with by the CAC;
  • System and process mapping of cases from referral through to case closure with comparison to matched cases not dealt with through the CAC approach in order to assess the impact of the CAC approach on case trajectories through the system;
  • Analysis of multi/ inter-disciplinary working through key stakeholder interviews in order to assess the impact of the CAC model on improved interagency practices in Durham;
  • A survey of user experiences (using the SUFS methodology and approach) at the point of the end of their involvement with the CAC to establish their views of the services that they have received;
  • Qualitative in-depth family case studies including semi-structured interviews with a sub set of users (both young people and non-abusing carers) on their experiences of the CAC model and their views on outcomes for their child and families;
  • Qualitative in-depth team case studies including semi-structured interviews with practitioners, manager and referrers on their experiences of delivering the CAC model, its benefits and challenges and issues with referral, delivery and perceived outcomes of the model. 

Anticipated Outcomes

  • A more ‘joined up’ service for children and their families, leading to a smoother journey through the process of involvement with the police and other services
  • More awareness within the police service of how to support children experiencing CSA and their families
  • Greater understanding from professionals who work with children and families in terms of emotional and practical support
  • Reduced distress for the child


Herbert, J.L. and Bromfield, L. (2016) 'Evidence for the Efficacy of the Child Advocacy Center Model', Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 17(3), pp. 341-357.


From the Department of Sociology