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the construction site of the future ChicagoCAC building

ChicagoCAC Celebrates 20 Years of Battling Abuse and Restoring Children’s Lives

August 5, 2021 will mark the 20th anniversary of the day Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center opened its doors, becoming the first organization of its kind in the city. ChicagoCAC is the city’s only nonprofit that coordinates the efforts of child protection staff, law enforcement professionals, family advocates, medical experts, and mental health clinicians under one roof to respond to reports of child sexual abuse and other violence against children. Over the past two decades, ChicagoCAC has served more than 44,000 children and their families, providing initial investigations, long-term trauma therapy, and ongoing support.

“I’m proud of how we’ve been able to maintain our level of care and be a welcoming, inclusive place for the families of Chicago to turn for so long,” said Char Rivette, executive director of ChicagoCAC.

Prior to ChicagoCAC’s opening, there was no centralized place or system for child sexual abuse to be reported or investigated in the city. Now, ChicagoCAC serves on average over 2,000 children per year.

“We continue to lead the way and increase our capacity to investigate and address reports of child sexual abuse,” said Rivette. “Collaboration has always been key to our model: not only do we have the space to co-locate our investigative partners, including DCFS, CPD’s Special Investigations Unit, the State’s Attorney, and our medical clinic operated by Lurie Children’s, but our community collaborations are so important to us as well.”

These include the PATHH Collaboration, which is both a learning community and a way to provide expanded mental health and other support services to ChicagoCAC families, and the Chicago Prevention Alliance, a group of organizations with the goal of combining expertise, resources and energy in order to make Chicago a national leader in the primary prevention of sexual harm involving children and youth. Last year, ChicagoCAC was able to reach 40,000 adults with prevention and training workshops, and education, prevention and policy work are a focus area for the organization moving forward.

Since its opening in 2001, ChicagoCAC has gone through many changes. Rivette joined in 2009 as executive director, only the second in the agency’s history. Under her leadership, an 18,000 square foot expansion to the original 24,0000 square foot space designed by renowned architect Stanley Tigerman was completed in January 2015. This expansion increased the agency’s service capacity by more than fifty percent. Recently, ChicagoCAC went through a rebranding to update its image and its website, and is looking to engage not only with its existing community, but new sources of funding and support as it reimagines approaches to gender-based violence within Chicago.

“I’m excited for the next 20 years,” said Rivette. “I think we have a chance to leave an even greater mark on the way Chicago deals with violence against its most vulnerable populations in the way our initial opening once did, and make this city a safer place for children to grow up and thrive.”

ChicagoCAC will honor some of its earliest champions and supporters, including the organization’s founder, former longtime Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley, at A Night of Heroes on September 29 from 6 – 9 pm at Theater on the Lake. Twentieth anniversary celebrations will continue through next year’s Luminary Award Dinner in April 2022.

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