Mental Health Professionals in Children’s Advocacy Centers: Is There Role Conﬂict?
Children’s advocacy centers (CACs) are specialized programs designed to provide the most effective professional response to reports of child sexual abuse or other serious child abuse. More than 700 CACs have been established across the United States, with at least one in each state (according to the National Children’s Alliance website [http://www. nationalchildrensalliance.org/index.php]), and 45 out of the 50 largest American cities have CACs as of this writing (Cross, 2010). CACs provide comprehensive investigation and intervention services for thousands of children every year. Coordinating criminal justice, mental health, child welfare, medical, victim advocacy, and other professionals is perhaps the most important function of CACs. It demands careful attention to establishing both appropriate linkages and appropriate boundaries among different disciplines. Recent publications have criticized CACs for creating “role conflict” for mental health professionals because of their work with criminal justice and child protection professionals in CACs (Connell, 2008; Melton & Kimbrough-Melton, 2006). Mental health professionals include professionals with a range of different training, including licensed clinical social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, and licensed mental health counselors. This article examines CAC practice and assesses the risk of role conflict for mental health professionals. It argues that Connell’s and Melton and Kimbrough-Melton’s critiques misunderstand current CAC practice and overestimate the risk of role conflict for mental health professionals in CACs.