The creation of the Bennington County Child Advocacy Center and Special Investigations Unit (BCCAC/SIU), in the mid-1980s, was the direct result of a grassroots effort on the part of local law enforcement and child protective services. Bernadette ‘Bunny” Thompson, from the Department for Children and Families and Gary Briggs, from the Bennington Police Department, recognized the need to collaborate in the interview process. They realized working together with community partners was invaluable to the success of a case. By reducing the number of victim interviews to one, that is recorded and shared with the investigation and adjudication team, reduced the number of times a victim has to tell their story, thereby reducing the opportunity for retraumatization.
Bunny and Gary
In 1985, Former Congressman Robert E. "Bud" Cramer (AL), who was then a District Attorney in Madison County, Alabama, saw the need to create a better system to help abused children. The social service and the criminal justice systems, at the time, were not working together in an effective manner that children could trust, adding to the children's emotional distress, and creating a segmented, repetitious, and often frightening experience for the child victims.
In February 1989 our first Multidisciplinary Team meeting was held. The team, originally known as SATT (Sexual Abuse Treatment Team), consisted of over 20 members from DCF, law enforcement, and the community. Since that first meeting, we have continued to meet once a month
April 1989: The Side judges at Bennington Superior Court agreed to donate a space in the basement for 3 rooms: interview, observation and waiting room.
June 1989: We became incorporated as the Bennington County Association Against Child Abuse.
September 1989: Interview Center opened for business.
November 1989: Community open house for Interview Center
From April 2005 to October 2009 the CAC operated as an umbrella agency under United Counseling Services.
While there had been a partnership between the CAC, DCF, and law enforcement since the beginning. Things become more official in June 2007 when the Bennington Special Investigations Unit, as authorized by Title 24 VSA § 1940, is formed, becoming the third SIU in the state of Vermont. In June 2007 the Bennington Police Department donated full-time Detective Larry Cole who was housed at the CAC; and in April 2009 Vermont State Police Detective Tyler Burgess also joined the SIU.
Nationally accredited by the National Children's Alliance in 2009 and re-accredited in 2014. "Our Accreditation Standards ensure that all children across the U.S. served by Children's Advocacy Centers (CACs) receive consistent, evidence-based interventions that help them heal from abuse, hundreds of CACs have become Accredited Members of NCA by meeting our Standards for Accredited Members and verifying their adherence to the highest standards of practice by submitting to NCA site review." (2017 http://www.nationalchildrensalliance.org)
In April 2010, we began doing business under our new name, Bennington County Child Advocacy Center
and Special Investigations Unit.
In May 2010, the CAC/SIU moved from the basement of the Superior Court to the Cone Building on Main Street in Bennington. The expansion of space allowed for growth in staffing and programming.
With the hiring of Joy Kitchell, Executive Director in 2012 and then Jenna Caslin, Case Coordinator in 2014, we were able to begin providing educational, prevention, and awareness activities to educate and inform children, youth service organizations, and the community at large. Jenna and Joy are trainers for Prevent Child Abuse Vermont, Darkness to Light, and Shared Hope International.
In February 2015 we purchased, through auction, our new office. With a closing in April, and a month of remodeling and bringing everything up to code, we were able to move in at the end of May. Please go to our link Our Forever Home for more pictures