What happens at the CAC?
The Child Advocacy Center (CAC) is a child friendly center located in Reno County. The CAC provides a place in which a team of trained professionals evaluate children who may have been abused. The team includes, but is not limited to, Reno County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, local law enforcement, Department of Child and Families (DCF), forensic interviewers, and a family advocate. When you and your family arrive, you will be greeted by a CAC staff member and made comfortable in a private waiting room that offers magazines, books, and toys. A family advocate will help assist with paperwork, explaining the interview process and the follow-up process.
What do I tell my child about the child forensic interview?
Inform your child that he/she will be visiting the CAC to talk about what happened to them. You might tell your child, “You and I are going to a special place where kids can go to talk. The person you’ll be visiting talks with lots of kids about lots of things. It is ok for you to talk to them.” Assure your child that you will accompany them to the CAC, but that they will be talking alone to a person who talks to children all the time.
Who will my child talk to during a child forensic interview?
Your child will talk to a child forensic interviewer. The interviewer has special training and experience in talking with children about alleged abuse. The interviewer’s goal is to make your child as comfortable as possible while gathering the necessary information for an investigation. The interviewer moves at a pace that is comfortable for your child and never forces a child to talk. Your child will talk to the interviewer in a separate room designed to make your child feel comfortable.
Can I watch the interview?
No. Only those people who are directly involved in the investigation are allowed to observe the interview. This reduces stress that can be placed on a child and provides a neutral setting for the child and the investigation. If possible, please bring a support person to wait with you during this time. Before and after the interview, you will have an opportunity to discuss any questions or concerns with the investigative team. After the interview, the team will tell you in general terms what they learned from the interview.
What if my child is having an exam?
The investigative team will help decide if your child needs an exam. If it is determined that an exam is necessary, there will be no charge to the family. You might tell your child, “We are going to see a nurse practitioner who takes care of kids. You will not get any shots. The nurse practitioner is not going to hurt you. She just needs to make sure that your body is okay.” When the exam is over, the nurse practitioner will be able to tell you in general terms what she learned.
What should I say to my child after the visit at CAC?
Listen to your child. If he or she wants to talk about the interview or exam, listen. Do not question your child or ask leading questions. Don’t be concerned if your child does not want to talk about the visit. Many children are “tired” of talking about it. Thank your child for talking and acknowledge his or her courage. Assure your child of your love and support, no matter what was disclosed or determined during the CAC appointment. Reassure your child that he or she will be okay.
Children and teens may struggle with confusion, worries, and other intense emotions related to the abuse. Counseling can help children and teens to process these thoughts and feelings and to develop a healthy and empowering way to understand and cope with the memory of the abuse. You might tell your child, “Even though your body is safe now, kids sometimes have worries of fears about what happened that won’t go away. A counselor can help with your worries and fears.” The CAC may help you determine your child’s counseling needs and connect you with counseling at Horizons or another appropriate agency.
LMSW Director of Horizons Child Advocacy Center and Prevention Services