The accepted national standard for quality investigation and intervention of child sexual and physical abuse is the development and operation of a Child Advocacy Center (CAC). The CAC approach brings all essential services and supports for abused children to one safe, child-friendly location. The CAC ensures non-threatening, child-focused environment for interviews with the child victim with rapid and efficient access to a full range of services, while maximizing communication and coordination among numerous law enforcement and treatment providers.
The CAC model is also cost effective. The community pays three times as much for a child to go through the system when a CAC is not in place. According to the findings from the National Child Advocacy study, "On a per case basis traditional investigations were 36 percent more expensive than CAC investigations…generating a savings of more than $1,000 per case." We are the only Child Advocacy Center in all of Onondaga County.
Our ultimate goal since the inception of the APU was to make the victim’s experience as painless as possible. The victim’s interest is our first and foremost concern.
- Sergeant Jack Schmidt, Onondaga County Sherriff's Abused Persons Unit
The McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to ending child abuse through intervention and education. The organization offers a safe, child-friendly process for abused children and their families, supported by a committed, professional team specializing in the investigation, prosecution and treatment of child abuse.
McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center will have the resources and support to provide education and prevention services to our community and compassionate and comprehensive care for victims of child abuse and their families.
In 1998, members of the McMahon and Ryan families of Syracuse, New York, began working with members of the Child Abuse Management Team (professionals involved with child abuse efforts). A needs assessment led by Martha Ryan and Dr. Ann Botash concluded that the creation of a facility that focused on child abuse issues was a critical need in the community. The McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Site was incorporated in December of 1998. The initial goals were to provide:
- a consistent meeting place and training facility for child abuse professionals;
- a child friendly location for interviews and supervised visitation for Child Protective Services;
- educational resources for non-offending care takers;
- educational resources for mandated reporters and other professionals;
- a central location for tracking of all abused children;
- community awareness & prevention efforts.
The McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Site officially opened its doors in April 2002, during National Child Abuse Awareness Month. The first site, located in a vintage 1860s house, was donated by McMahon and Ryan family members. Since then, McMahon/Ryan has not only achieved its initial goals in meeting a critical community need, but it has grown significantly by expanding its role to include:
- serving as the coordinator of the Onondaga County’s multidisciplinary team (Child Abuse Response Team or CART) which works to develop procedures, protocols and programs that are centered on the needs of the abused children;
- providing services to nearly 300 child victims and their families every year;
- hosting the Child Abuse Response and Evaluation Clinic from Upstate Medical University on site;
- hosting representatives from Onondaga County Sherriff’s department and Child Protective Services on site;
- providing education and outreach on child abuse prevention and awareness to school age children.
Compounding the expanded role was national and local data demonstrating a growing epidemic. Nationally, one out of four girls and one out of six boys will experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of 18 (Centers for Disease Control, 2005). And here in Onondaga County, there are more than 5,000 child abuse reports to the child abuse hot line annually. That represents approximately 9,000 children who are suspected victims of abuse, abuse often perpetrated by the people they trust most.
McMahon/Ryan’s 3,000 square foot location at 509 W. Onondaga Street lacked the space to effectively coordinate the services for all these children and their families. Despite best efforts, many of the services for these young victims were scattered across the county. At the most critical point of disclosure, a child was unable to receive all services in a child-friendly location. Further, to get needed treatment and support, abused children and their families were forced to negotiate an overwhelming maze of systems. Compounding these challenges, the community was burdened by the high cost of a fragmented system.
As a result of the expanded role and services that McMahon/Ryan provided, and evidenced by the positive impact of collaborations and increase in reported child abuse cases, the McMahon/ Ryan Site’s Board of Directors and its collaborating agencies began exploring a more comprehensive community solution. The Child Advocacy Center concept was determined to be the standard to achieve to meet the needs of physically and sexually abused children in Onondaga County. In January, 2011, the board of directors approved a 15-year lease to relocate McMahon/Ryan to the former Reid Hall, a 30,000 square foot building located at 601 East Genesee Street.
In June, 2011, the organization moved and co-located with partnering agencies with more than 60 professionals engaged in preventing child abuse. The doors officially opened to our state of the art center in August, 2011. Since then, we have established the region’s premier Child Advocacy Center.