By Annette Pinder

As we celebrate the season’s joys, BestSelf Behavioral Health (BestSelf) is bringing attention to the youngest and most vulnerable individuals in our community by highlighting child abuse. Few people are aware of the fact that Erie County has the second highest rate of reported child abuse in New York State — more than 3,000 cases annually.

The ideal location for children who suffer abuse is a Child Advocacy Center (CAC). CACs coordinate the investigation, treatment, and prosecution of child abuse cases in one location. Here in Buffalo, this is accomplished in partnership with DSS/Erie County Child Protective Services, Erie County Law Enforcement, Erie County’s Offices of the County Attorney, District Attorney, and Probation Department, International Institute of Buffalo, and Oishei Children’s Hospital. BestSelf’s CAC consists of a unique highly skilled multidisciplinary team focused on child protection, victim advocacy, law enforcement and prosecution, and physical and mental health.

All CACs must be a child-appropriate facility; have a multidisciplinary team; be a designated legal entity responsible for program and fiscal operations; have culturally competent policies and practices; ensure that forensic interviews are conducted in an objective, non-duplicative manner; provide medical evaluation and treatment, therapeutic intervention, victim support, and advocacy; and case review and tracking.

It is important to understand what children face without a CAC. A child may end up having to tell the worst story of his or her life over and over again to doctors, police, lawyers, therapists, investigators, judges, and others. They may have talk about the traumatic experience in a police station where they might think they are in trouble or may be asked the wrong questions by a well-meaning teacher or adult that could hurt the case against their abuser.

Despite the overwhelming number of reported child abuse cases, Buffalo’s CAC currently serves only one-third of all reported cases. However, the new location being built by BestSelf at 899 Main Street, on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, will ensure that all children can be seen immediately by the CAC team under one roof. However, it will take approximately $10.5 million to create this new, expanded, state-of-the-art CAC. Here are some ways that you can help BestSelf protect and come to the aid of these children this holiday season.

  1. Support the CAC’s Warm Hearts campaign by purchasing a candy bar for $4.95. Choose either milk chocolate with toffee and marshmallows, or milk chocolate with peppermint at All proceeds support the CAC at BestSelf.
  2. Become a Hero of Hope by donating at

The mission of the Child Advocacy Center is to integrate and coordinate services to meet the needs of child victims of sexual and physical abuse and their families at a single, child-friendly facility to reduce trauma, promote accountability, and facilitate healing. Learn more about the history of the CAC at Learn more about the CAC Capital Campaign at where you can download information and watch a video. See a two-part television show about the CAC at and at