February 11, 2021
Welcome to the WRCAC Roundup
Welcome to the inaugural edition of the WRCAC Roundup! The WRCAC Roundup is a new monthly communication featuring the latest news from the Western Regional Children’s Advocacy Center (WRCAC). Throughout each issue, we will highlight what we are learning and doing as it relates to child abuse intervention, professional development, and justice and healing for kids, and share relevant research, resources, and links to events from our team and our partners across the country. Each month, the WRCAC Roundup will be structured around one key topic or aspect of our work that is central to building strong multi-disciplinary teams (MDTs) and children’s advocacy centers (CACs). This month’s WRCAC Roundup is an introduction to who we are and how we operate within the broader CAC movement. We explain how our work heading into 2021 has been shaped by the pandemic and what we’ve learned from that experience, and recognize the vital regional and national partnerships that contribute to our success.

It goes without saying that 2020 was a challenging year like no other – for all of us personally and for our collective efforts to ensure the safety of children. Our lives were upended, as were the lives of the families we serve. We struggled with how to continue to ensure kids were safe and deliver services in a way that kept our teams safe as well. Through all of that, we tapped our creativity, doubled down on our commitment to children, and succeeded in moving work forward in innovative ways that were inconceivable just months prior.

At WRCAC, our work changed in important ways that both challenged and improved how we provide services to you on the frontline of serving children. Due to the new realities of the pandemic, we re-imagined our services to include more virtual engagements, web-based initiatives, and publications that strove to meet the learning needs of the field. As you all became Zoom aficionados, we moved our trainings online. We didn’t just assume that what makes a good in-person training will translate well to a virtual format, but redesigned our curricula, and developed high-impact trainings that are learner-centered and take advantage of the technological tools and opportunities for peer engagement that come with the ease of convening groups of learners online. (We will share details of these changes in a future edition of the WRCAC Roundup that focuses on the topic of high-impact training.) We invite you to glance through our expanded training offerings in 2021 and sign up to participate in new virtual programming including the following:
  • Building Resilient Teams

  • Victim Advocacy Training

  • Core Concepts for Team Facilitation

  • Mental Health Peer Consultation Forums
We also took the opportunity to strengthen our relationships in the field, recognizing that all of us needed partners more than ever as we grew more isolated in our work. WRCAC works cooperatively with a network of regional and national agencies that are supported through the Victims of Child Abuse Act (VOCAA) with funds administered by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). Referred to colloquially as the “VOCAA partners,” the agencies (listed below) meet regularly “to improve the community response to child abuse through strategic leadership, collaboration, and capacity building." (OJJDP’s “2019 Annual Report to Congress: Victim of Child Abuse Reauthorization Act,” p. 2)
  • Chadwick Center for Children and Families at Rady’s Children’s Hospital – San Diego, manages the OJJDP/VOCAA award to operate the Western Regional Children’s Advocacy Center

  • Children’s Minnesota, manages the OJJDP/VOCAA award to operate the Midwest Regional Children’s Advocacy Center

  • National Children’s Advocacy Center, manages the OJJDP/VOCAA awards to provide training and technical assistance to child abuse professionals and operate the Southern Regional Children’s Advocacy Center

  • National Children’s Alliance, manages the OJJDP/VOCAA National Subgrant Program (including subgrant programs for Victims of Child Pornography and CAC Military Partnerships)

  • Philadelphia Children’s Alliance, manages the OJJDP/VOCAA award to operate the Northeast Regional Children’s Advocacy Center 

  • Zero Abuse Project, manages the OJJDP/VOCAA award to provide training and technical assistance to child abuse prosecutors
As OJJDP states, "The VOCAA-funded grantee organizations provide specialized training and technical assistance, elevate the expertise of child abuse professionals, and develop and improve the functioning of MDTs, Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs), and state CAC chapters to strengthen the system’s response to child abuse and neglect as well as provide direct funding to local CACs through subgrant funding.”

The pandemic created new urgency to our national, collaborative efforts. Questions mounted quickly about how and when to shut down (and then re-open), what services could be responsibly shifted to a virtual format without compromising the health, safety or confidentiality of families and MDT partners, and how CACs would be able to continue to invest in families with the uncertainty of future funding ever-present. WRCAC and our VOCAA partners met regularly (and continue to do so) to ensure we fully shared information and leveraged our individual and collective resources to maximum impact. See WRCAC’s resource, “Considerations for Hosting In-Person Trainings & Eventsreleased in June as one example of a resource developed specifically to provide timely guidance to CACs and chapters during the pandemic.

At the regional level, WRCAC works in tandem with three other Regional Children’s Advocacy Centers (RCACs) to model, champion, and support the multidisciplinary response to child abuse intervention, by providing expertise, training and resources to improve outcomes for children and families affected by abuse. RCACs were established by OJJDP in 1995 to provide training and technical assistance to child abuse professionals located within each U.S. Census Region (a map of each region highlighting the states each RCAC primarily serves can be found here). Each RCAC provides national programming as well as region-specific trainings, technical assistance and financial assistance to strengthen and develop MDTs, CACs, and accredited state chapters of the National Children’s Alliance. 

All staff of the four RCACs meet annually to set a collaborative agenda for the year. At our virtual gathering in October 2020, we reaffirmed our commitment to developing a conceptual model of MDT leadership and professional pathways to support MDT leaders in 2021. We recently solicited information from 200 MDT leaders to establish a baseline understanding of what roles MDT leaders hold and perceptions of those roles, and will soon release a white paper on MDT leadership, “Beyond Case Review: The Value of the Role of Team Facilitator in the Multi-Disciplinary Team/Children’s Advocacy Center Model,”. (Our work on MDT leadership continues and will be featured in a future WRCAC Roundup toward the end of 2021.) And we’ve added a second collaborative goal in 2021 to take a deeper dive into the needs of state chapters and how RCACs can best support the strategic growth and development of chapters across the country.

We look forward to sharing the next edition of the WRCAC Roundup that will feature our Rural Mental Health Project and highlight resources to increase access to trauma treatment for families living in remote communities. You will be able to find this and each monthly issue of the WRCAC Roundup archived here on our website for future reference. 

Thank you for the important work you do on behalf of children everywhere. If you have any feedback, questions or ideas for what you’d like to see featured in a future WRCAC Roundup, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at wrcac@rchsd.org.  
Vicky Gwiasda
Program Manager
Western Regional Children's Advocacy Center
Vicky joined the WRCAC team in January 2017, serving initially as a State Liaison before shifting into the role of Program Manager in May 2017. In previous positions, she served as Executive Director of CALICO, the accredited CAC serving Oakland, California and the surrounding area, and a senior leader at the Institute for Community Peace in Washington DC, the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority in Chicago, and the University of Illinois at Chicago Survey Research Laboratory. Her areas of expertise include organizational development, fund development and systems change, with a commitment to bridging the fields of research, evaluation and practice. She facilitates trainings on strong MDTs, MDT leadership, case review, accreditation, and resiliency.
Lisa Conradi
Interim Executive Director
Chadwick Center for Children and Families
Lisa Conradi, Psy.D. is the Interim Executive Director at the Chadwick Center for Children and Families at Rady Children’s Hospital - San Diego. In this role, she provides overall leadership support to the Chadwick Center, a children's advocacy center and one of the largest trauma treatment centers in the nation. She has multiple years of experience in the field of child trauma and in supporting service systems in their efforts to become more trauma-informed. She has authored and co-authored a variety of publications on trauma screening and assessment practices, creating trauma-informed systems and presented nationally on innovative practices designed to improve the service delivery system for children who have experienced trauma. She is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and has received training from the developers on multiple evidence-based trauma-focused treatment practices, including Trauma-Focused Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) and Child-Parent Psychotherapy (CPP). She is on the editorial board for the Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment and Trauma and a co-author of the upcoming book, Trauma-Informed Assessment with Children and Adolescents: Strategies to Support Clinicians.  
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WRCAC is funded through the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Grant #2019-CI-FX-K002