Caregiver's Guide

Your child has been referred to the Washtenaw Child Advocacy Center (WCAC) out of concern for her/his wellbeing. Families referred to our center have many questions about what will happen during their visit. This booklet addresses many of these concerns.

As a parent or caregiver, your role is to listen to your child and to reassure her/him that any abuse was not her/his fault. Please take time to read and share this information with your child.

Why have I been referred to the WCAC?

There is reason to believe that your child may have been sexually abused. As part of the investigation, your child needs to be interviewed by the proper authorities. The WCAC is a neutral, child-friendly, safe place where interviews take place. The WCAC offers its services to children with abuse-related issues.

Who will meet me when I arrive at the WCAC?

A WCAC staff person will be there to greet you and help you fill out some paperwork. There may be a Childrens Protective Services worker or an official from law enforcement present for your childs interview. There may also be a prosecutor or other professionals present. You will have the opportunity to meet everyone involved in your childs interview.

Is the WCAC part of the Childrens Protective Services or Law Enforcement?

No, the WCAC is a non-profit agency and is not part of Childrens Protective Services, the State of Michigan, any law enforcement department, or the prosecutors office. The WCAC works collaboratively with these organizations to interview your child and to provide follow-up services.

Who will interview my child?

A Child Forensic Interviewer employed by the WCAC will interview your child. The Forensic Interviewer has completed special training on how to properly interview children using the

Michigan Forensic Interviewing Protocol. No leading questions or suggestions about what may have occurred will be used. The structured interview approach helps the team to gather complete, accurate information from the child so they can respond more effectively to prevent future victimization.

Before the interview takes place, a member of the team will talk with you to get an understanding of the circumstances that have prompted the investigation. You will have an opportunity to discuss what you know as well as any concerns you may have. When you arrive at the center, you will receive a tour. The Forensic Interviewer will then talk one on one with your child alone in a child-friendly interview room. The Interviewer is equipped with an earpiece/microphone system to allow him/her to communicate with team members who view the interview from an observation room equipped with a one way mirror. This allows them to listen and talk with the Interviewer from the observation room. The team approach prevents your child from being interviewed multiple times by different people. Currently, the WCAC does not videotape or record interviews. The team will meet with you after the interview to let you know what was said during the interview and to let you know where the investigation will go from here.

What should I tell my child about the interview?

Remain calm when speaking to your child. If your child has told you about some sexual contact, then tell her/him you are bringing her/him to a place where kids talk about what happened. Tell her/him that each of you will be talking with someone. If you are not sure what has happened to your child, simply explain that you are taking her/him to a place where kids talk about problems they may have with other people.

In either case, the most important thing is to let her/him know she/he is not in trouble, and she/he needs to tell the truth. Usually, if you are supportive and encouraging, your child will participate in the interview.

It is very important that you do not question your child. She/he may be confused and feel more pressure. It is okay to listen to her/him if at anytime she/he wants to talk to you. Remain as calm as you can and just listen and affirm your support.

If you have concerns or feelings that come up about going to the interview please call us to discuss them. It is best not to discuss your concerns with or in front of your child. This is hard on parents toomake sure you get support for yourself.

What/Who should I bring to the appointment?

If your child has a comfort item, please allow her/him to bring it. You may bring a trusted support person such as a friend or relative.

Bring your list of questions, any documentation you may have about your childs behavior, or relevant medical information. Please allow two hours for your entire interview visit (more if you are bringing more than one child to be interviewed). Note: your childs interview will last about 15-45 minutes. Additional time allows you to talk with staff and the team after your childs interview.

Can I be in the room for the interview?

It is the WCAC policy that members outside of the official investigative team are not permitted in the interview (or observation room).

The reasons for this is that:

1. We have found that most kids have an easier time telling what happened when a parent is not present.

2. It is difficult for a parent to hear a childs disclosure and remain calm.

3. If the case goes to trial, a parent that witnesses an interview may be subpoenaed and have to testify in court about the interview.

If my child doesnt want to talk, can she/he leave?

We will never force a child to talk. However, prior to the interview, please encourage your child to participate. Listen to her/his concerns. Reassure your child that she/he is not in trouble and that you will be waiting for her/him during and after the interview.

Part of the interview technique is rapport buildingwhere the interviewer talks with your child to get to know her/him and help your child feel safe, relaxed and comfortable. This process is designed to make it easier for your child to participate in the interview. If your child does not want to talk or does not disclose anything, it is unlikely that charges will be brought against the alleged perpetrator. However, she/he may disclose something at a later date. Sometimes the interview reveals that the suspected abuse did not occura positive outcome for all involved.

If you or your child are feeling uncertain or anxious about the interview, please call the center staff to discuss ideas about how to help you feel more comfortable. We are here to support you through this process!

Will I find out what happened during the interview?

After your child is interviewed, the team will want to talk to you privately. Your child may return to the Family Waiting Room. You will be told about your childs interview. The team may also have some follow up questions for you or information about the next steps in the investigation. Please take some time now to write down any questions you may have. The interview process can be very overwhelming and you may forget to ask something.

Whom should I call if I have questions about my appointment?

Please feel free to call the WCAC at (734) 544-2925 and you may speak to the forensic interviewer or crisis counselor. You may also call the Law Enforcement Investigator or Children's Protective Services worker assigned to your case. Our staff can help you by providing names and phone numbers of these team members.

What's next in the investigation?

Law Enforcement and/or a Children's Protective Services worker will continue the investigation into whether your child was abused. If there is strong evidence, law enforcement will request that the prosecutors office issue criminal charges against the alleged perpetrator. Do not lead your child to believe that the interview is the only part of the legal process in which they may be involved. It is possible that your child will be interviewed again or be asked to testify.

If criminal charges are issued, a Victim/Witness Advocate will be contacting you. The Advocate will assist you throughout the entire legal process.

What's next for my child and our family?

Crisis Counselor

After the interview is completed the crisis counselor will be your primary contact person. The crisis counselor is an important part of the team. She/He will sit with you while your child is being interviewed. At that time you may want to talk about what has happened within your family and ask any additional questions about sexual abuse. She/He will provide you with information about sexual abuse, child safety and other community/counseling resources. The crisis counselor also will be able to provide prevention education to your children. This includes talking about OK touch and not OK touch. In addition, the crisis counselor can provide short-term counseling for you and your family.

Counseling may be recommended and is often very helpful for children as well as their parents. The WCAC works closely with providers of specialized counseling for sexually abused children and their non-offending family members. The crisis counselor will assist you with referrals to appropriate services, even if you do not have insurance.

In addition to therapeutic treatment, one of the single most important aspects of your child's healing process is YOU! Your child will be better able to heal from this experience if you take good care of yourself. Through counseling, caregivers can find support and understand how to best meet their child's many needs. Remember that healing is possible, for you and your child, but it takes time. Your child may need to talk about the abuse long after it happened, and may need counseling at different times in her/his life.

A medical examination may be scheduled for your child. A specially trained pediatrician conducts these exams on site at the WCAC. The team will discuss with you the possibility of an exam. If your child is referred for an exam please consider the following information carefully:

Let your child know that she/he will be seeing a special doctor that will check her/him from head to toe. Your child will not be given a shot and it is important to let she/he know that. Let her/him know you will be with her/him if she/he wishes. Most children tolerate this exam very well. A special instrument called a colposcope will be used. The colposcope magnifies the genital area and allows the physician to document any signs of abuse. This instrument does not go inside of the child.

Most children have no physical injuries to their genital or anal areas. This does not mean that they were not abused. The most important thing is making sure your child is healthy. The physician who examines your child will sit down with you after your childs check-up to explain the results.

REMEMBER:

  • Your support is what your child needs most at this time. Continue to let your child know you love, believe and support her/him.
  • Therapeutic treatment for your child is essential. Follow-up with counseling referrals. If you need help, please let us know!
  • Parents need support too! Make use of counseling and other support available through the WCAC.
  • We are here to support you through this. You may call the WCAC at any time
    • For a supportive listening ear.
    • For information about your case.
    • For suggestions about how to best help your child.
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Child Advocacy Center

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555 Towner
Ypsilanti, MI 48198

734-544-2925

 
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