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Children's Advocacy Center: About Us

Our Story

Victim Advocacy

Court Process

Our Staff

Our Partners

Our Story

Our Facility

The Peoria County Children's Advocacy Center provides a home-like environment where child victims can disclose abuse to law enforcement and child protective services in privacy and safety and can receive services in one location. The CAC opened its doors in October 1998 at the State's Attorney's Office while a new location was prepared.

In May 2000, the CAC moved into the newly remodeled Peoria County facility which was formerly the juvenile detention center. The CAC is located in the heart of the East Bluff of Peoria which is convenient and accessible to our clients and multi-disciplinary team members. Our building is handicapped accessible and has private parking, a child-friendly waiting room, offices for staff and MDT members, a conference room, an interview room and an observation room.

501 E. Gift Avenue
501 E. Gift Avenue
Interview Room
Interview Room

Our Services

  • Multi-Disciplinary Team Investigation

The team is a group of interagency professionals to ensure a prompt response to allegations of abuse. This team approach limits the number of times that a child must disclose, reducing the trauma to the child. CAC cases are reviewed by the team to provide quality, efficient services to the children and families.

  • Forensic Interviews

All interviews are conducted by a specially trained interviewer in a room designed to assure the child’s comfort. The detailed, sensitive, non-leading, legally sound interview is recorded to avoid duplicate disclosures.

  • Advocacy

A Case Manager provides continuous support to the children and families throughout the investigation and prosecution process. They assist with victim rights information, the justice system, orders of protection, and serve as a liaison to families during the court process. The Case Manager also makes prompt medical, mental health, and community service referrals and provides on-going follow up support and education.

Our Goals

  • Conduct investigations in a victim-sensitive manner
  • Utilize a coordinated multi-disciplinary team among agencies for each case
  • Minimize the stress and limit the number of interviews for victims of child abuse
  • Support the victim and non-offending family members by offering coordinated medical, legal, and community advocacy services
  • Ensure the safety of the victim by holding the offender responsible for their actions


Victim Advocacy

The child abuse investigation and related victim services are coordinated from the Children’s Advocacy Center. The Victim Advocates work with the family to set up appointments and referrals for necessary services, explain the judicial process and assist with forms and other needs. Your advocate is available to talk with you about any feelings, concerns, worries and reactions that you, your child, or your family may have. 

  • Questions about courtroom procedures 
  • Applications for restitution 
  • Information about future court dates 
  • Social Service referrals 
  • Obtaining release of your stolen property 
  • Preparation of Victim Impact Statements 
  • Emotional support and counseling referrals 
  • Preparation of Crime Victims Compensation Applications 
  • Application for automated victim notification 
  • School Interventions 
  • Employer Interventions 
  • Transportation to court and special assistance issues


Steps in the Court Process

Apprehension and Arrest of the accused:          

In most instances, the criminal justice process begins when an arrest is made following the commission of a crime.  The State’s Attorney’s Office reviews the evidence and determines whether to file a felony (juvenile) or misdemeanor charge.  You will be notified by a letter from this office when charges have been filed.

Case Review by the Court or Grand Jury:              

After a felony charge has been filed, the case will go to a preliminary hearing or the grand jury.  If the case goes to a preliminary hearing a judge examines the case and determines whether there is sufficient evidence to bind the defendant over for trial.  Most cases will be presented to a grand jury before the preliminary hearing date.  If at least 9 of 16 grand jurors determine there is sufficient evidence against the defendant, an indictment is returned and the case proceeds to trial. 


After the court or grand jury decides there is enough evidence against the defendant to hold him over for trial, the defendant appears before the court to plead either guilty or not guilty.  This hearing is called the arraignment.  If the defendant pleads not guilty, the judge assigns a trial date for the case. 


The State’s Attorney presents the case on behalf of the People and the defendant is represented by a defense attorney.  The defendant may also choose to represent himself at trial. The defendant has the option to have a bench trial or a jury trial.  A bench trial is before the judge and the judge decides whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty.  A jury trial is before 12 jurors who decide whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty and this verdict must be unanimous.  If you are needed to testify you will be issued a notice for subpoena to be in court at the trial.


If the defendant is found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the judge will set a court date to impose a sentence.  The sentence can include fines, probation, jail time or a prison term.  If the defendant is found not guilty, then he or she is acquitted and if in custody, he or she will be released.  

Our Staff


Executive Director Donna Cruz Executive Director Donna Cruz

Donna Cruz has been employed by the Peoria County State's Attorney's Office since 1990 and has served as a juvenile abuse and neglect assistant, as the Chief of the Juvenile Division, and as a felony assistant. As Executive Director, Ms. Cruz reviews ongoing investigations, participates in Multidisciplinary Team meetings, acts as a liaison between the Children's Advocacy Center and the State’s Attorney’s Office, DCFS Division of Child Protection, the Peoria Police Department, the Peoria County Sheriff’s Office, and all police agencies within Peoria County. Ms. Cruz provides direction to the Director and is responsible for ensuring that the Children's Advocacy Center fulfills its mission.


Director Sharon_Morton Director Sharon Watson

Sharon Watson graduated from Bradley University and has been with the State's Attorney's Office since 2011. She develops and administers standards, procedures, and goals related to personnel, budget, grants, accreditation, and facilities to achieve effective and economical daily operation of the agency and works with all Multi-Disciplinary agencies to ensure the effective coordination of investigations, interviewing, and team meetings.


Case Manager Joricka_Tooles Case Manager JoRicka Tooles

JoRicka Tooles has worked in the children's social services field since 1996. Ms. Tooles duties as Case Manager include assessing victim children and their non-offending family members to determine their need for counseling and making referrals for appropriate counseling, maintaining all data collection and record keeping for Children's Advocacy Center cases, scheduling medical evaluations as requested by the investigators, scheduling the child interviews and the Multidisciplinary Team Meetings, and serving as an advocate for the victims and their families during the investigation and court proceedings.



Our Partners


Peoria County State's Attorney's Office

Peoria Police Department

Peoria County Sherriff's Office

Pediatric Resource Center

The Center for Prevention of Abuse

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