by Jamie Schultz


It Takes a Village: An Advocacy Center Expands with the Help of Community

by Jamie Schultz

Children and families now have the support they need.

The Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center (CCAC) just got a well-deserved renovation—an 18,000 square-foot expansion. The not-for-profit organization mans Chicago’s frontlines when it comes to reports of child sexual abuse, as well as reports of physical abuse of children under age 3. And the center is the only one of its kind for miles that employs so many child protection staff, including law enforcement professionals, family advocates, medical experts and mental health clinicians—all under one roof. The new addition and renovations allow the organization to increase the number of family-friendly spaces, double the amount of therapists, and educate thousands of adults on abuse prevention.

The new expanded facility at dusk.

The entire renovation was designed with children and families in mind, including the child-height windows, the private family rooms, and the 3 p.m. milk and cookies break room gathering. The main focus is on the children and families healing from abuse, and the renovation allows for a space just for them. The center has found that that kind of support goes a long way.

James Hardie
® Reveal® Panel System in soft, cheeful colors clads the center's exterior.

Starting outside, the center received an exterior facelift. James Hardie Building Products helped to side the center with a donation $50,000. The new, modern design uses child-friendly, cheerful colors like light pink, yellow, purple, green, coral and blue, creating a warm and inviting space for children and families. From the outside, the building is more welcoming to children, which helps them feel protected in a time of vulnerability.

“James Hardie is a wonderful partner for ChicagoCAC,” said Char Rivette, executive director of the center. “In addition to providing the beautiful cladding for our new addition, they have made in-kind contributions totaling more than $26,000 toward our fundraising efforts. We are grateful to work alongside James Hardie’s leadership as they show their commitment to our community’s most vulnerable children and families.”

Updated art therapy spaces create a warm and friendly environment.

When a client first comes to CCAC, they spend most of their first visit in the family rooms. Before construction, these family spaces were tiny closets turned into makeshift rooms to meet the demand. Now, they are much larger, more spread out, private spaces for children and families. It’s comforting for children and families to have a private space of their own— helping clients feel safer and calmer—while they’re taking in information from advocates.

The renovations also helped with the expansion of the mental health program. The center’s Family Hope Center has doubled their amount of therapists and dedicated therapy space. The Family Hope Center also has a new waiting area, new therapists’ offices, updated art therapy and group therapy spaces, and additional staffing from the Child Life team, who offer the games, activities and dog therapy—all helping to make it a comforting space for children and families to heal.

The expansion allows more space for games and activities.

The brand new Education Center allows the CCAC to train thousands more adults each year, ensuring more parents, professionals and community members (including Chicago Park District’s 500 staff, beat cops and teachers) know how to prevent abuse. Before construction, the team overflowed in the center’s training room, now, trainees and staff can use the space more effectively and comfortably, which means putting a halt to communitywide abuse possibly before it even starts.

A new lunchroom also offers social space for staff and families. It’s ideal for gatherings, including the 3 p.m. milk and cookies on Fridays. In the space, there’s now a dedicated child-friendly kitchen, where child-life specialists can prepare snacks with kids while teaching them about kitchen safety.

From the outside in, CCAC is committed to providing children with a safe and free place to share their story in their own words with experts, who will listen to them, protect them, and help them heal. If you’d like to help them grow and better serve children and families who need them, donate to their growing and giving campaign. Building this kind of protected and welcoming space for Chicago’s children in need can take a village but the importance of this effort cannot be more significant.

(Photography by Renae Lillie Photography)