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Child Advocacy Centers: Mission, Space Environment, and Philanthropy

With Dr. Lauren Ruhlmann (Auburn University) & Prof. Taneshia Albert West (Auburn University)


Child advocacy centers (CACs) play a significant role in the response to child sexual abuse by providing coordinated settings for multidisciplinary services to children and families affected by sexual abuse. They establish a child-friendly context (physically and psychologically safe) for multidisciplinary teams to offer forensic interviews, therapy and medical exams, courtroom preparation, victim advocacy, and case management. This coordinated, collaborative, and multidisciplinary approach reduces the level of stress and trauma of clients, who are not subjected to multiple, repetitive interviews by various agencies and different facilities, forcing them to relive the trauma of the abuse. By understanding and producing resources to fortify the nexus between CAC service providers, space, and donors, this multi-phase project will enhance the well-being and quality of life of children affected by sexual violence and their families.


This cross-departmental collaboration will result in significant contributions to the fields of interior design, nonprofit studies, traumatology, and human development and family science. The long-term goals of this project are to

  1. understand whether and to what extent the built environment effects service provision, service recipients’ experience of care, and staff members’ welfare in the context of Child Advocacy Centers (CACs);

  2. develop an evidence-based design checklist and evaluation tool specifically for CACs; and

  3. equip CACs with evidence-based fundraising strategies that highlight the programmatic-role of space and help

Research outputs

Albert-West, T. (co-PI), Ruhlmann, L. (co-PI), Weber, P.C. (co-PI). (2020). Space, Mission and Trauma: How Trauma-Informed Design Supports the Mission of Child Advocacy Centers. Women’s Philanthropy Board Impact Grant (Awarded: $8,000; requested: $10,000).

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