What can I expect when I take my child to a Children’s Justice Center?
- You will be greeted by a Children’s Justice Center staff member and invited into a living room where toys, books, and snacks are on hand for you and your child’s comfort.
- A child protective services worker and/or detective will meet with you briefly and then take your child back to a child-friendly room to be interviewed.
You will be asked to wait in the living room while your child is interviewed.
- A CJC coordinator will provide a packet of information explaining the criminal justice process as well as counselors in the area that provide mental health services for your child and/or you.
- After the interview, the detective and caseworker discuss next steps in the investigation. A medical exam, counseling, and other services may be recommended. This is a good time to raise any concerns and ask questions.
Will I be able to sit in the room with my child while he/she is being interviewed?
Often children feel uncomfortable and/or reluctant to disclose abuse in front of their parents because they:
- are embarrassed.
- do not want to upset or cause their parents pain.
- fear they’ll be in trouble with their parents if they disclose sexual abuse.
Parents, in turn, may:
- have great difficulty containing their emotions when they hear their children disclose abuse.
- may be asked to testify in court after witnessing a child’s disclosure of abuse.
Occasionally children have disclosed abuse by the same parent that has accompanied them to the CJC. This disclosure may not have anything to do with the original allegation.
Due to these factors, the best practice is to have parents wait while their child is in the interview room.
What happens if my child is afraid or is too shy to talk to the investigators at the CJC?
Unfortunately, this does happen. If children do not disclose information at the CJC it is very difficult for the case to proceed forward. Parents and therapists are considered third parties and their testimony is not admissible in court. Those excluded from this rule are nurses, doctors, detectives and case workers.
If the parent has grave concerns that their child is being victimized, it is best to get the child in to see a counselor who can work with the child over time. If the child begins disclosing information, they can be interviewed at the CJC again when they feel comfortable talking about the abuse.
Will my child have to testify?
There is a possibility that your child may have to testify if the court case reaches the trial phase. A victim advocate will be on hand to assist you and your child. Victim advocates can put children and parents at ease by educating and preparing them for what to expect in a courtroom.
The recording of your child’s interview at the CJC cannot replace his or her testimony on the stand.
Why was I told not to question my child any further when I called to report the abuse?
It is best to let the professionals handle the interviewing process. Investigators and prosecutors want to make sure that a child was not coached to disclose information. If a child is questioned over and over again they may think they need to tell the “person” what they want to hear, or they could begin to change their story.
Parents should avoid video or audio recording your child at home while asking them questions, as this will taint the interviewing process and these types of recordings are not admissible in court.
Furthermore, it is best practice to wait to get your child in to see a counselor until after the CJC interview has been conducted.
What happens after my child is interviewed at the CJC?
If your child discloses abuse during the interview at the Children’s Justice Center, you can expect the following steps to happen next.
- The detective assigned to the case will attempt to contact the alleged perpetrator for an interview. The alleged perpetrator may or may not cooperate. The detective will continue the investigation, gathering evidence and other information pertinent to the case.
- If the perpetrator is in the home, a caseworker will set up a safety plan with the family. In cases where the abuser is a parent living in the child’s home, the investigators will ask the parent to leave the home and have no contact with the child until the case can be investigated.
The only time children are removed from their home is when both parents/caregivers are alleged perpetrators, if the non-offending caregiver is uncooperative, or if the child is allowed contact with the alleged perpetrator after investigators have instructed otherwise.
- The detective and caseworker will set a meeting at the Children’s Justice Center with a multi-disciplinary team of professionals. This includes a county attorney who will make the final decision as to whether charges will be filed or not. If charges are filed, the case will proceed through the court system.
- A victim advocate will be assigned to the case and can assist the child’s parents/caregivers during the court process once charges have been filed.
I want to get my child help, but I can’t afford counseling, what should I do?
Crime Victim Reparations is a government-funded program that pays for a variety of services for victims of crime. In the case of child sexual abuse, crime victim reparations can assist with the costs of counseling, medical care, if applicable, and in some cases changing locks on doors or moving expenses.
The CJC coordinator will provide parents with a Crime Victim Reparations (CVR) form to fill out. You can apply for CVR to pay for anything that your insurance does not cover, such as out of pocket expenses like co-pays and deductibles. CVR does not require you to choose a counselor on your insurance preferred provider list.
In most situations, CVR will cover the full amount of mental health services for those without coverage.
For those on Medicaid, there may be a required mental health organization for you to go to as they may be the only entity contracted with Medicaid for your county.
There are some agencies who provide treatment at no cost, based on your income level and other factors.