Child Advocacy Studies | NorthWest Arkansas Community College

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Child Advocacy Studies

Child Advocacy Studies (CAST) at NWACC focuses on educating students, professionals, and the general public about all aspects of child abuse and neglect. This includes developing skills to effectively recognize child maltreatment, intervene and prevent child abuse. CAST also provides training in how to respond to allegations of abuse by those in social services, law enforcement, education, health professions and the justice system.

Students can pursue certificates and degrees in Child Advocacy Studies (CAST), and professionals can engage in specialized child abuse training courses. 

The Melba Shewmaker National Child Protection Training Center (NCPTC), located on the NWACC campus, is available for students, professionals and the general public to engage in hands-on child advocacy training. The building includes a two-story mock house, courtrooms, forensic interview rooms, a medical exam training room, interrogation room, webinar center and many other training spaces. 

Additional Information

CAST - The focus of Child Advocacy Studies Training (CAST) is on experiential, interdisciplinary, ethical and culturally sensitive content that will provide professionals working with children a common knowledge base for responding to child maltreatment.

Students may earn a certificate of proficiency by completing nine credit hours or a technical certificate by completing 23 credit hours.

Available courses include:

  • Child Abuse & Neglect
  • Child Psychopathology
  • Response to Child Maltreatment
  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Problems of Child Welfare
  • Social Problems
  • Treatment, Prevention and Advocacy 

Your First™ Response and Mandated Reporter Training - FIRST™ is comprehensive training that teaches mandated reporters the signs and symptoms of abuse. Mandated reporters will learn what steps to take when they suspect child maltreatment: Find a safe location, identify your concerns, build rapport with the child, seek details, and tell the hotline. 

FIRST™ teaches mandated reporters how to respond in a manner that protects the child while also preserving the integrity of the investigation and prosecution. This is a four-hour training that is offered to any mandated reporters.

Empower Me™ - Empower Me™ delivers age appropriate body safety programming to grades K-12. Empower Me™ is a train-the-trainer program offered to schools that will allow each school district to offer the course in future years without depending on the training center. Communities are best served when the Empower Me  training is coupled with FIRST ™ to ensure mandated reporters know what to do if a child discloses abuse after participating in the Empower Me curriculum.

Childfirst® Forensic Interview Training - ChildFirst® is an intensive, interactive five-day course in which students learn the necessary skills to conduct a competent, investigative forensic interview of child abuse victims utilizing the ChildFirst® forensic interviewing protocol. ChildFirst® forensic interview protocol is an evidence-based, nationally recognized forensic interviewing protocol that takes a holistic approach to child abuse investigations and explores all forms of maltreatment. The course combines lecture with demonstration and hands-on experience for the students.

From Crime Scene to Trial™ - From Crime Scene to Trial™  provides detailed instruction in the investigation of a crime scene and how seemingly unimportant details can become critical at trial. This training includes interrogation of child abuse suspects, photographing a crime scene, witness interviews, and a crime scene investigation to be conducted in the "mock house" at the Bentonville Gundersen NCPTC training facilities.

Investigation and Prosecution of Child Abuse™ - All front-line professional working cases of child maltreatment, especially law enforcement, social services, forensic interviewers, CAC staff, child abuse attorneys and prosecutors, will benefit from this training. Topics address current issues in the field, and may include interviewing /interrogating suspects, forensic interviewing, expert witnesses, trial strategies and more.

Forensic Interviewer at Trial™ - This course is designed for teams of two, consisting of one attorney and one forensic interviewer. Teams will learn to work together in preparation for a child abuse trial. The course combines lectures and practical court exercises to enhance the ability of the forensic interviewer and prosecutor or civil child protection attorney to defend the forensic interview and multidisciplinary team investigation from attacks by the defense.

Victim Assistance™ - This course provides in-depth instruction on best practices for advocating and navigating institutional systems. Community and partnership building, tips for longevity in the field and strategies for staying current will also be addressed. Special attention will be given to self-care practices and peer support opportunities. Attendees learn best practices for advocating for survivors of abuse and navigating institutional systems, will receive tips for longevity in the field and strategies for staying current, and increase knowledge of self-care practices and peer support opportunities.

Register for these classes

Research continually shows that educators (K-12 and college and university), social workers, law enforcement officers, health professionals, first responders, counselors, prosecutors, and members of our legal and childcare systems are inadequately prepared to respond to a case of child maltreatment and abuse.

In response to this immense need, in 2008 Northwest Arkansas Community College became the location of the Melba Shewmaker National Child Protection Training Center. 

About the Facility:
The Melba Shewmaker Southern Region NCPTC building facility opened in 2013 and has over 10,000 square feet of hands-on training space, including a two-story mock house, courtrooms, forensic interview rooms, a medical exam training room, interrogation room, webinar center and many other training spaces. 

The Melba Shewmaker Southern Region NCPTC is staffed with nationally renowned experts in forensic interviewing, abuse prosecution, prevention education, mental health, crisis prevention and advocacy. 

Melba Shewmaker Southern Region National Child Protection Training Center works to significantly reduce all forms of child maltreatment through education, training and prevention, while advocating for and serving children, adult survivors and communities. The training center aims to prepare all current and future child protection professionals to recognize, react and report the abuse of children.