The impetus for establishment of the Children’s Advocacy Center was a desire to cluster the child protection agencies involved with investigation and treatment of sexual abuse cases in Chicago under one roof, allowing for better communication and cooperation between agencies, and most importantly, to provide a non-threatening environment in which to treat the victims of this abuse. Agencies participating in this not-for-profit facility include personnel from the Chicago Police Department, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, and the Cook County Medical Center Pediatric Clinic.
The Center provides intensive advocacy for children- this includes providing education, support groups, social and child life services, mental health resources, crisis intervention, and court accompaniments. With the establishment of the Center, all child sexual abuse reports in Chicago come to one place. Over 3,000 children a year are served at this 22,000 square foot building located at 13th Street and Damen Avenue.
Design of this building focuses on the child. Elements such as two interior courtyards, one with a playground for active play, one landscaped for quiet conversation, and the variety of rooms for individual or group interaction are intended to reduce stress. Circulation is clear and direct, articulated corner and entry elements provide a readability to the space from within. Large open rooms alternate with small private spaces in an orderly way. The layout allows staff to accommodate the various ages and personalities of the victims in conducting interviews and counseling. The light filled waiting room features an aquarium full of colorful fish, which calm and distract children nervous about their interviews.
The Center is finished in pastel glazed bricks in a variety of colors. Roof forms are articulated, and include curved forms, octagons and gables, which serve to break the street face of the building into a series of small, approachable elements. Chimneys protrude from the roof in a way that resembles a child’s drawing. Windows are playfully canted, some are fitted with sloping awnings. The solid wall facing the parking lot has been fully covered with a screen print, a vibrant composition of stuffed animals by Chicago artist, Christine Tarkowski. The character of the Center is non-threatening- this does not resemble a faceless institution, but a friendly, even playful place.