What happens at Children’s Center?
Children’s Center provides a safe, neutral, child friendly setting for the investigation of child abuse. We provide forensic interviews and medical evaluations regarding allegations of child abuse. We work together as a multidisciplinary team. This means that team members from various agencies including: law enforcement, Children’s Division, juvenile officers, etc. come together to obtain needed information. This process limits the number of interviews that your child will have to participate in.
Can I bring my child directly to Children’s Center if I suspect he/she has been abused?
No. Any time an allegation of abuse occurs, law enforcement and Children’s Division must be involved. The CAC does not actually investigate the alleged abuse. We simply provide the services to most accurately collect the evidence for an investigation. Therefore, we cannot interview or examine children without the coordinated approach of the multidisciplinary team.
Who makes my child’s appointment?
Children’s Center receives referrals from Law Enforcement, Children’s Division or the Juvenile Office. Once one of these agencies calls Children’s Center and makes the appointment for your child, they will notify you of the date and time.
How do I prepare my child for his/her appointment?
Parents are encouraged to prepare their child for a visit to the Center by explaining that this is a place where children come to talk to someone about what may have happened to them. Children should be instructed to tell the truth and should be told that it is “ok” to talk to our interviewer. In addition, we strongly encourage parents to tell children that they will have a head-to-toe check up (if a SAFE or CARE is scheduled) and that a medical provider will look at all of their parts. Parents are given age appropriate explanations to share with their children regarding the exam.
Who do I call if I suspect a child is being abused?
Call the Missouri Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-392-3738.
What do I need to bring with me for my child’s appointment?
All adults accompanying a child must bring a valid driver’s license or photo ID. If you are not the biological parent of the child and have legal custody of the child, you must bring paperwork that has been signed by a judge showing that you have legal custody. You will also need to bring your child’s Medicaid card and social security number. You will not be charged for any of our services.
What happens when we arrive?
When you arrive at the Center, you will be shown to a private family room. The family room is furnished with items to make your child feel safe and comfortable in his/her surroundings. An advocate will speak to you when you arrive at the Center to explain the process and answer questions you may have. The advocate is a resource for your family if you have questions or are in need of services. They will do case review to track the progression of your case. If you choose, the advocate may also provide follow-up calls to you to keep you informed of the progression of your case.
Can I talk to my child about what happened?
No. If your child brings up the subject and wants to talk about it, listen without commenting or questioning. Be sure to reassure your child the he/she will be all right and that they are not in trouble.
Do I have to pay for the services my child receives?
No. Children’s Center is a not-for-profit and there is no charge for the services your child receives.
Your child will talk to a Forensic Interviewer. This person has special training and experience in talking to children.
Only the child and the interviewer are allowed in the interview room. This is done to reduce the possible stress that can be placed on a child and to provide a neutral setting for the child. Only members of the multidisciplinary team are allowed in the observation room. Team members meet with the parent(s) or caregiver(s) after the interview to explain the process and discuss what will happen next.
The length of a Forensic Interview is determined by the needs of the child. The average interview lasts about 30 minutes depending upon the child’s age and developmental abilities. Adolescent interviews generally last longer than 30 minutes.
The type of medical evaluation will depend on the allegations of abuse. Children’s Center provides two types of medical evaluations: A Child at Risk Exam (CARE) and a Sexual Abuse Forensic Evaluation (SAFE). The exams are done at the Center by a trained medical provider. You may accompany your child in the exam room. Reassure you child that they will be safe and that the medical professional is just making sure that they are okay.
The actual exam only lasts about 20 minutes. Our medical provider will discuss the child’s medical and social history with the parent or guardian accompanying the child before the exam.
What happens after our visit to the Children’s Center?
At the end of your visit, you will have the opportunity to talk to the investigative team. You may ask questions and express your concerns. The team will let you know in general terms what they have learned from the interview and how they plan to proceed with the investigation. If you choose, the advocate will keep you informed of the progress of the case and help your family receive the services needed.