Before the Interview
How should I tell my child that he/she has to talk about this situation with a stranger – especially if they’ve already disclosed to me?
Tell your child that they will be meeting with someone who is a specialist (or you pick the word that will best relate to your child, i.e. a counselor, an interviewer, etc.) in talking to children about very difficult things. Tell your child that even though they’ve told things to you (or someone else), it’s important that the information is given to the adult whose job it is to keep kids safe, and that they talk to many children about these kinds of things.
When should I tell my child this will be taking place?
Tell your child about the appointment early enough that they don’t feel like it’s a surprise, but not so far in advance that they have a lot of time to worry about it.
What if my child starts to ask me questions about what they have to say?
Tell them that you honestly don’t know what will be asked but that it’s important for them to be honest. Assure your child that this person works with children all the time and whose job it is to talk to kids about difficult things. Tell them you want him/her to answer all the questions the best they can and to tell the truth.
Give the child permission to talk about what they have disclosed. Be general in what you tell the child (i.e. “It’s okay to tell the interviewer what you told me (or whomever they told) about what happened to you”). Do not repeat the details of what they have disclosed or ask them any additional questions.
What if my child wants to know why they just can’t tell me and let me tell the other people?
Tell your child that you might not know what questions to ask or how to ask them. Assure them that they are not in any trouble and that they are doing what every person should always do: tell someone when someone else has done something wrong.
What if my child asks if I’ll be in the room with them?
Assure your child that while they are talking to the interviewer, you’ll be in a nearby room getting information about how to help them stay safe.
What if my child says they don’t want to do this because they already told the story?
Tell your child that you understand their feelings of frustration, especially since it may be difficult to talk about. Tell them how proud you are of their honesty and bravery for telling in the first place, and assure them that talking to professionals will help keep them and other children safe.
The Day of the Interview
On the day of the interview, the non-offending caregiver will be greeted in the waiting room by a local Crisis Center Advocate. It is the non-offending parent’s decision as to whether or not they want the advocate to stay or leave.
After learning more about the role of the Crisis Center Advocate and the services they have to offer, the non-offending caregiver will be shown the interview room where the interviewer and child will be during the interview. The non-offending caregiver will then be invited into the team room before the interview, where they will meet the multidisciplinary team members. At this time, the interview process will be explained and any questions or concerns will be addressed. The caregiver will NOT be permitted to stay in the team room during the interview of the child.
After the interview, the non-offending caregiver will be invited back into the team room to meet with the multidisciplinary team and discuss the next steps in the process. Again, questions and concerns will be addressed by the team. The caregiver will leave the Child Advocacy Center with everyone’s contact information and will be kept in the loop during the process of the investigation.
Why can’t the non-offending caregiver stay to watch the interview?
Often times they are a “fresh complaint witness” as the child has disclosed to them. If they watch the interview it can change their recollection of what the child said to them, which can or may weaken the case.
Children are less likely to be completely honest if they know that their caregivers are watching. They are apt to want to protect their caregivers from the truth and they may be embarrassed to be completely honest and/or forthcoming.
We need the non-offending caregivers to be in the best state possible when the child leaves the Child Advocacy Center so that they can support the child. If the caregiver watched the interview, it could be very upsetting, potentially affecting their ability to emotionally support the child.
After the Interview
Should I ask my child about his/her experience?
You can certainly ask about how things went but don’t press the child for specifics, as the goal of the interview is that the child doesn’t have to keep repeating the discomforting details. Asking things like what the room was like and if the interviewer was nice are perfectly comfortable questions; it shows you’re interested in their experience but respect they may be uncomfortable giving you too many details.
What if my child wants to tell me everything?
This is unlikely as children are protective of their parents and caregivers, which is oftentimes why they are reluctant to talk about such sensitive things in the first place. However, if your child appears to want to talk more to you, certainly be a good listener and be careful not to react in a way that makes your child feel guilty (i.e. “Why did you do that?”) or make them feel ashamed (i.e. “You should have not gone there.”). Let them say what they have to say and thank them again for their honesty. Let the investigative team know if the child says anything additional/new that you think they should know about.
Should my child show signs of sadness or shame?
There is no normal reaction to these types of situations. Some children may feel relieved that they’ve been able to share their experience, or they may just seem like their normal selves and want to play or do an activity that is fun. Some children may show sadness or fear, especially if their perpetrator is a family member(s) or someone known well and trusted by the child. A child telling his/her experience during the interview can be re-traumatizing, so be mindful of how he/she may be feeling before and after. Be supportive and follow his/her lead.