Below, you will find some frequently asked questions and resources for caregivers of children who have been victims of abuse.
Q: How does a child get referred to the Child Advocacy Center (CAC)?
A: Children come to the CAC only after we receive police report and/or DCP&P report alleging child abuse. After the report is received, a parent or guardian is contacted to schedule an interview.
Q: What happens when a child arrives at the Center?
A: The CAC staff greets the child and his/her family members at this child-friendly facility. The child will be interviewed and caregivers will be given referrals relevant to the child and family’s needs.
Q: Who conducts the interview and how does it take place?
A: A member of the multidisciplinary team who is specially trained in forensic interviewing of child abuse victims conducts the interview in a comfortable, child-focused room. The interview methodology is specifically designed to avoid re-traumatizing the child.
Q: Are parents or guardians allowed to watch the interview or sit with the child?
A: No, parents or family members are not allowed to view the interview. The interview is part of an investigation and anyone viewing the interview could be served by a court subpoena. As a result, only law enforcement, a representative from the prosecutor’s office, the DCP&P case worker, and possibly other members of the investigative team.
Q: What happens after the interview is over?
A: Members of the multidisciplinary team will meet with caregivers and inform them as to how the investigation will proceed. The Victim Advocate will provide information on how to access needed services and/or assist in legal proceedings that may arise in the course of the investigation, and will keep the caregiver informed of developments in the case.
Q: Should my child receive a medical exam?
A: All children can benefit from a specialized medical exam, regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred. Exams are performed by specially trained providers, and are child-focused, with a special sensitivity to the needs of children who have been sexually abused. The exam is external and non-invasive. A child is never forced to undergo an exam, and can decline any part of any exam; however, we urge you to learn about the process and its benefits. The video and brochure below provide a general overview.
ENGLISH LANGUAGE VERSION
SPANISH LANGUAGE VERSION
*Created in collaboration with Audrey Hepburn Children’s House at Hackensack Meridian Health. https://www.hackensackmeridianhealth.org/en/Services/Childrens-Health/Specialties-and-Services/Child-Abuse-and-Neglect
Q. How can I help support my child in preparation for court?
A. The Victim Advocate at the CAC who is assigned to your case can be a great source of help and support as you and your child prepare to go through the court process. Your child’s mental health care provider can also help them prepare mentally and emotionally. Additionally, the Office of Victims of Crime has created some materials to review with children and youth who may have involvement with the justice system as the victim of or witness to a crime. The materials teach children about how the justice system works, what their rights are, and how they can cope with the difficult feelings they might have during the process. There are different booklets based on age group, and each booklet is available in English, Spanish, Chinese (simplified), Vietnamese, Arabic, and Haitian Creole.
(Q) How can I access mental health and behavioral care services for my child?
The Children’s System of Care (CSOC) is New Jersey’s public behavioral health system. CSOC serves youth under age 21 with emotional and mental health care needs, substance use challenges, and/or intellectual/developmental disabilities and their families. CSOC provides community-based, culturally competent services and supports based on the needs of the youth and family.
PerformCare, the Contracted Systems Administrator for the Children’s System of Care, is the single point of access to CSOC’s wide array of behavioral health, substance use, and intellectual and developmental disability services for youth and families throughout New Jersey.
To learn more and to access services, call the 24-hour, toll-free access line at 1-877-652-7624, or visit the PerformCare website.