What happens at the Children's Advocacy Center?

The Children's Advocacy Center is a safe, child friendly location for children to come speak with trained interviewers.  This can be an anxious time for you and your family.  A child advocate will be calling you before the interview to answer any of your questions. But you don’t have to wait.  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 Children's Advocacy Center we work with a team of professionals from law enforcement and the Department of Health and Human Services.  When you come to the Children's Advocacy Center, you will be able to meet the professionals working on your child’s case and ask them further questions.

While you’re talking to the team, an advocate will be showing your child(ren) around the Center.  They will get to see different areas of the building including the room where they will be talking to a trained professional.  If they have questions or worries, they can ask their advocate anything.

Will I be able to watch my child’s interview?

No, only professionals directly involved in the investigation are allowed to observe the interview as it's taking place.  And they do this from a room different from the one the child is in.  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 Children's Advocacy Center are parents just like you. We understand how being in the same room with our child may influence what the child does or doesn’t say, such as if our child doesn’t answer quickly enough, we may answer for them.  It’s hard for us as a parent to sit quietly or not influence the interview with a concerned look or an emotional reaction.  

All of the interviews at the Children's Advocacy Center are recorded to minimize the number of times your child will have to talk about what happened.  The recording of the interview is turned over to law enforcement as evidence in a potential criminal case.  Missouri Revised statutes 510.035, 545.950,565.225, and 566.209 control access on who can have possession of the recording.  No custodian of the recording may release it without a court order.

What do I tell my child about coming to the Children's Advocacy Center?

You might tell your child:

“We are going to the Children's Advocacy Center.  It is a place where kids can go to talk about important stuff or things they are worried about.  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 a trained forensic interview specialist.  They have attended basic and advanced training on how to talk to children about difficult subjects.  It’s important that any details about the alleged abuse be coming from the child and not from someone else whom may have knowledge of the abuse.  Our interviewers are trained to not ask suggestive or leading questions and to move at a pace that is comfortable for your child.  They never force a child to talk to them.

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.  We slow the whole process down for them, but we’re not asking them the same questions over and over.  If you think your child might benefit from this extended model, be sure to let us know at the time of scheduling.

What will I be doing while my child is talking to someone?

You will be meeting with an advocate.  They want to answer any questions you have and if they don’t know the answer, it is their job to find out.  They will listen to your worries and concerns and provide resources to help you through a difficult time. Our advocates are not therapists, but they can listen and get you the help you need.

We will also be gathering a lot of information to help professionals with your case.  We track what happens with your particular case from the beginning to the end.

What happens after the interview?

You will be able to talk to members of the investigative team.  They will tell you in general terms what they can share with you from the interview.  Remember, your child’s interview is just the first step in the investigative process and investigators may not be able to tell you everything.  You will have an opportunity to ask questions and voice your concerns.

There may be other witnesses that need to be interviewed.  There may be physical evidence that needs to be photographed or collected.  At this point in the process, it’s often difficult to predict what will happen.  If there is a strong likelihood a crime has been committed, all of the information will be turned over to the prosecuting attorney 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.

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.

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 a medical providers will make them less worried or anxious then be sure to let us know.  That is always an option.

Children needing a medical exam are referred to Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, MO.  Doctors will 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, it is up to the child who they want in the room.  Some children want their parent(s) in the room and some don’t.

Medical providers use a tool to help them see a child's body more clearly and the exam is non-invasive.  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.  It’s important to realize that in at least 95% of all cases of child sexual abuse, there are no medical findings.  That does not means something did not happen.  The medical provider can help explain this to you more fully.

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 may as time passes.  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.

If your child does need counseling, 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.  Too often parents just want their child to “forget” about the abuse and “move on.”  That’s easier said than done.  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 have a therapist available at the Children's Advocacy Center and counseling is provided free of charge to all children who receive a Forensic Interview.  Just let us know.

Missouri Child Abuse & Neglect Mandated Reporter Training is now On-line

For anyone interested in taking the on-line version of Missouri's Child Abuse and Neglect Mandated Reporter Training, the link is provided below.  This training meets all the necessary components required for those agencies tasked with public safety and who have the responsibility of taking care of children at any point in time, such as medical providers, law enforcement, schools, religious organizations, public/private community groups, etc.

Prevention is Primary: Strategies for Community Wellbeing

Prevention Institute, a non-profit national center dedicated to improving community health and well-being, is proud to announce the official publication of Prevention is Primary:  Strategies for Community Wellbeing.  Edited by Prevention Institute and Vivian Chavez of San Francisco State University, Prevention Is Primary aims to move practitioners from the margins of prevention to its core by defining the elements of quality prevention efforts, identifying best practices, and illustrating the application of prevention principles in a multitude of settings.