When a concern arises that a child has been abused, a Forensic Interview is the best way to gather information about this concern. A Forensic Interview is an objective, non-leading and age-appropriate process that limits or even eliminates additional trauma to the child.
Unless a child is too young to talk, his or her involvement with the Child Advocacy Center will begin with this interview. It is conducted by someone trained in forensics, child development and linguistics and will take place in one of our age-appropriate interview rooms. The interview will be permanently recorded.
CAC interviewers in Springfield and West Plains have been trained to ask questions in a developmentally-appropriate way for the age of the child. The interviewer wears an earpiece throughout the interview. This allows other investigators (team members) who are discreetly watching the interview from another room to talk to the interviewer. With this collaboration, all members of the investigative team receive the same information to work on behalf of the child.
Sexual Assault Forensic Exam (SAFE)
When there is the concern that a child has been sexually assaulted, a SAFE exam will be scheduled. A SAFE is a comprehensive, non-invasive medical examination that is much like a well-child check-up. The exam will take place in one of our amazing exam rooms where every inch of wall and ceiling space are covered in murals, designed to delight and distract a child.
A child will never be restrained during the exam and it is the child’s choice whether the exam is completed. Children may even choose to have a support person in the examination room with them.
During the exam, our medical assistant will use many stress-reducing activities for the child’s benefit. For example, she may play “I Spy” with a child, challenging him or her to find fun and funny elements among the sea creatures in our murals. She may also blow bubbles, play music and share other fun distractions.
Our nurse will use a colposcope as part of the exam. This sophisticated piece of forensic equipment records the evidence of abuse.
Child at Risk Exam (CARE)
A CARE is a comprehensive, head-to-toe physical exam used to document recent or past trauma to a child. It will also take place in our beautiful examination room. We photograph all physical evidence collected during a CARE exam with state-of-the-art equipment.
We are able to refer severe physical abuse cases to outside agencies for additional follow up services. Children have many choices during this exam and again, are not restrained at any time. In addition, if a child refuses this exam, we will not proceed.
Multidisciplinary Team Coordination
The investigation of child abuse is a team effort. Law enforcement officers, juvenile officers, prosecutors, medical personnel, Missouri Children’s Division caseworkers, therapists and CAC staff make up the multidisciplinary team that investigates each case. While CAC staff interview and examines the child, the entire team works behind the scenes, observing the interview and collaborating to determine a course of action to take on behalf of each child, the CAC serves as the central meeting place where team members gather to begin the investigative process.
The Child Advocacy Center regularly collaborates with local and regional agencies for the benefit of our children and families. We often refer them to the following agencies for further assistance: