The Child Advocacy Center of Northeast Missouri interviews children and teens ages 2-17 and adults with developmental delays who report sexual or physical abuse, neglect, or witness a violent crime. The goal is to reduce a victim’s trauma by avoiding multiple interviews by several different investigating agencies.
Prior to the existence of Child Advocacy Centers, children were frequently further traumatized due to multiple interviews by several different investigating agencies. Today, it is the goal of investigators to lessen a child’s trauma by having only one full interview conducted. The Child Advocacy Center is a designated facility that provides that service to investigating teams. The Child Advocacy Center Forensic Interviewers are specially trained to interview children disclosing abuse and to sensitively gather all of the necessary information so investigators can complete a thorough investigation. It is important to remember that your child is being interviewed, not interrogated. Your child is not in trouble. This is your child’s opportunity to share their experience, in their own words, in a child-friendly setting.
Your child will speak one-on-one with an interviewer from The Child Advocacy Center. Members of the multidisciplinary team will not be in the same room with your child, but will observe the interview from a separate observation room. The interviewer is the only person that will be talking to your child. In order to preserve a child’s statement, all interviews conducted at the center are recorded. Most children over the age of 5 are made aware that their conversation is being recorded. The interview process varies in length depending on how much your child wants to say. After your child’s interview is completed, he/she will return to the lobby with you.
Parents are not allowed to view the interview because of the possible stress it can place on the parent, the child, and the fact that this is an official investigation. However, after the interview has been completed, you (the parent/guardian) will be brought back to meet the team members, find out how things went, ask questions and discuss what the next steps are in the investigation.
Counseling can help ensure that your child recovers as quickly as possible without experiencing greater suffering. Also, parents and families have their own issues to deal with when confronted with the abuse of a loved one (shame, guilt, anger, victimization); counseling can assist parents and family members with these issues.
As parents and caregivers, you are the first to notice changes in your child’s behavior. Always reinforce to your child that the abuse was not their fault.
- Keep calm. Your child may sense the emotional stress and anger you may be feeling about what has happened to him/her. This may cause a child to feel responsible for upsetting you and may cause them to wish they had never disclosed.
- Use comforting statements such as “I’m proud of you for telling” or “What happened to you wasn’t your fault”.
- Listen to your child if they feel like talking, but do not let your desire to make sense of what has happened lead you into probing questions about details of the abuse. Sometimes if a child feels uncomfortable they won’t give details and may even say they “don’t remember” the incident.
- Do not make any promises about what will happen to the offender or promise that the child will never have to see the offender again. It may not be true (e.g. court proceedings). Your child needs to trust your word. It is better to tell a child that you don’t know the answer to a question.