what is the children's place?
We are a Child Advocacy Center.
Child advocacy centers provide a child-friendly, safe and neutral location in which law enforcement and Child Protective Services investigators may conduct and observe forensic interviews with children who are alleged victims of crimes, and where the child and non-offending family members receive support, crisis intervention and referrals for mental health and medical treatment. The Child advocacy center model's main objective is to reduce trauma to child victims by bringing everyone together and sharing information one time. These multidisciplinary teams are made up of law enforcement officers, child protective service personnel, prosecutors, lawyers, advocates, mental health therapists and medical personnel. The multidisciplinary team meets regularly to communicate and collaborate on child abuse cases. Cases are reviewed with the victim’s initial disclosure, through investigation, treatment and prosecution. Our team work in the best interest of the child.
what is a forensic interview?
Forensic interviews at the Child Advocacy Center are conducted by our forensic interview specialists or by one of the criminal investigators who have received advanced training on the forensic interviewing of child victims/witnesses.
A forensic interview is a structured conversation with a child intended to learn detailed information about a possible event(s) that the child may have experienced or witnessed. The purposes of a forensic interview are:
1. To obtain information from a child that may be helpful in a criminal investigation;
2. To assess the safety of the child’s living arrangements;
3. To obtain information that will either corroborate or refute allegations or suspicions of abuse and neglect;
4. To assess the need for medical treatment and psychological care.
A forensic interview is conducted at the Child Advocacy Center when there has been a report to Law Enforcement agencies or the Office of Children Services that the child may have been a victim of physical or sexual abuse or when a child may have witnessed a violent crime.
Forensic interviews at the Child Advocacy Center are recorded on to a digital video disc (DVD) and provided to law enforcement.
The Children's Place
The Children's Place is a safe, child friendly location for children to come speak with trained interviewers or one of our medical providers. We know this can be an anxious time for you and your family. When we are able, one of our child advocates will be calling you before the interview or medical evaluation to answer any of your questions. If you have questions and need answers, please call and ask to talk to the advocate assigned to your child’s case. We would rather you call than worry.
At the Child Advocacy Center we work with a team of professionals from law enforcement and the Office of Children Services. When you come to the Child Advocacy Center, you will be able to meet the professionals working on your child’s case and ask them further questions.
We hold a pre-conference for the parent or caregiver, with the purpose of asking all questions and to learn more about the resources and services that will be provided to your child, and if needed your family.
While you’re talking to the team, one of our family advocates will be showing your child(ren) around the Child Advocacy Center. They will get to see the room where they will be talking, the room we watch the interview in, and check out the cool artwork of polar bears. If they have questions or worries, they can ask their advocate anything. This time spent with the child is very important for the child to know, they are safe and they are not in any trouble. Our family advocates put the child first and make sure all of their questions are answered.
Will I be able to watch my child’s interview?
No. Only professionals directly involved in the investigation are allowed to observe the interview. This is done to reduce the possible stress that can be placed on a child and to provide a neutral setting for the child and the investigation.
Most of us working at the Child Advocacy Center are parents just like you. We understand how being in the same room with our child may influence what the child says or doesn’t say. If our child doesn’t answer quickly enough, we may answer for them. Whenever we have made exceptions to the rule, it just doesn’t work. It’s hard for us as moms and dads to sit quietly or not influence the interview with a concerned look or an emotional reaction. Parents are also not allowed in the observation room during their child’s interview. We ensure confidentiality, only professionals are allowed in the observation room.
All of the interviews at The Children's Place are recorded to minimize the number of times your child will have to talk about what happened. The DVD recording of the interview is turned over to law enforcement as part of their forensic evidence.
What do I tell my child about coming to The Children's Place?
You might tell your child:
“We are going to The Children's Place. It is a special place where kids go to talk about important stuff. The person you will be talking to, talks to lots of kids about what might have happened to them. It’s okay to tell them everything. You are not in any trouble.”
Who will my child talk to?
Your child will be talking to one of our trained forensic interviewers. They have attended advanced training on how to talk to children about difficult subjects, many of these professionals have several years of experience and hold degrees in the social work field. Our interviewers are trained to not ask suggestive questions and to move at a pace that is comfortable for your child. We never force a child to talk to us.
We also offer extended forensic interviews, which allows the child to come back over several visits to talk to our interviewer. The same questioning strategies are used as in a regular interview, but we recognize that some children need more time to feel safe and comfortable with this environment and with us. So we just slow the whole process down for them, but we’re not asking them the same questions over and over.
What will I be doing while my child is talking to someone?
You will be meeting with your family advocate. We want to answer any questions you have, guide you through this process and make all resources we have available to your family. If we do not know the answer, we will find out and get the information back to you as soon as we can. Our Family advocates will listen to your worries, concerns and provide resources to help you through a difficult time. Our advocates will listen and get you the help you need. Your other children are welcome to play in our lobby area so you can talk privately to your advocate. Our staff work with children all the time and we can watch the other children as your focus on your child's and family needs. We can provide meals and snacks when the interviews happen late at night and we offer our kids that visit us a blanket to take home.
What happens after the interview?
You will be able to talk to members of the investigation team. They will tell you in general terms what they learned from the interview. You will have an opportunity to ask questions and voice your concerns.
Remember, your child’s interview is just the first step in the investigative process. There may be other witnesses that need to be interviewed. There may be physical evidence that needs to be photographed or collected. The alleged offender will be interviewed by law enforcement. At this point in the process it’s often difficult to predict what will happen. All of the information will be turned over to the district attorney, through law enforcement who will decide whether or not to prosecute. Your advocate will keep in regular contact to let you know what is happening on the case. If you have questions at any point during the investigation or prosecution of your child’s case, please feel free to contact your advocate. Your family advocate will be with you from beginning to end, they will call you and check in to see how you are doing and how your child(ren) are doing.
Parents and children are often worried about whether they will have to testify in court. It’s really way too early to know. If this happens, our advocate will be with you every step of the way. We understand that this can be a scary time for the child and for the family. We will do everything we can to make this process easy to understand.
Will my child need a medical exam?
Based on the allegation or the interview, the members of the investigative team may decide a medical evaluation is needed. For many children, knowing their bodies are okay is a huge relief and if seeing one of our medical providers will make them less worried or anxious.
We have Dr. Cathy Baldwin-Johnson, who has specialized in child abuse who conducts the medical evaluations at the Child Advocacy Center. Dr Cathy, and our Nurses may want to spend some time with you to collect important medical history, but they will also want to talk to your child one-on-one to answer any of their questions. When it comes time for the actual medical evaluation, we leave it up to the child who they want in the room. Some children want their parent(s) in the room and some don’t.
Our medical providers use a tool to help them see the genital area more clearly. This tool is called a colposcope and it is a magnification device with a camera. The medical provider can take a picture of what they are seeing. If they need a second opinion, your child doesn’t have to have another exam. They can consult with a medical peer utilizing the photographs taken during the evaluation.
When the medical evaluation is over, the medical provider will be able to tell you what he or she has learned.
Will my child need counseling?
Some children do and some don’t. Every child is unique in how they cope. Some may not need counseling now, but will need counseling down the road. Maybe you need counseling more than your child to help you cope with everything that has happened. Your advocate will listen and provide referral information. What we do know is that children who are believed and protected from continued abuse are able to do quite well.
It is very important to your child’s recovery that you work with a therapist specifically trained and experienced in trauma and abuse. This is a field with special expertise.
In most instances, it is important to provide your child with an opportunity to talk with a professional. Counseling can help your child and family through this very difficult time. It’s best to address issues and concerns now, rather than years later. We are more than happy to help you get counseling, please let our advocates know. Even if you decline at first and then change your mind latter on, please give us a call. We are here to help you and your child.