How the CAC Works
WHAT WE DO
The mission of the Washoe County CAC is to ensure the health and safety of the child in a child-friendly environment for the purpose of minimizing trauma, providing advocacy, and supporting effective investigations and prosecutions.
WHAT HAPPENS AT THE WASHOE COUNTY CAC?
The Washoe County CAC is a safe, child friendly center where children of all ages come to talk to a trained interview specialists about allegations of child abuse, obtain medical evaluations and engage in therapy to help deal with the aftermath of abuse. We know this can be an anxious time for you and your family. If you have questions and need answers before your appointment at the Washoe County CAC, please call and ask to talk to someone about your child’s case.
At the Washoe County CAC we work with a team of professionals to help ensure a proper investigation is done regarding allegations of child abuse while reducing trauma of your child. When you come to the Washoe County CAC, you will be able to meet the professionals working on your child’s case and ask them further questions.
SERVICES PROVIDED AT WASHOE COUNTY CAC
- Forensic interviews
- Medical evaluations
- Advocacy and support
- Court support
- Case coordination
- Mental health services
- Community education
- Professional training
CASES AT WASHOE COUNTY CAC
The Washoe County CAC is available for interviewing and medical evaluations of children, not needing emergency medical care, under the age of 18, who are alleged to have been victims of:
- Sexual abuse
- Serious physical abuse
- Violent crime including being a witness to domestic violence, homicide, robbery
- Kidnapping or attempted kidnapping
If I want my child to be seen at the Washoe County CAC, what is the referral process?
Nevada Law requires everyone to report suspected abuse and neglect to the proper law enforcement agency or Washoe County Human Services Agency. The first step is making the report. Once the report is made and accepted for investigation, law enforcement or Washoe County Human Services Agency will arrange for a forensic interview or medical evaluation at the Washoe County CAC. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what to do. If you’re not sure and need to talk to one of our team members, please feel free to call the Washoe County CAC during normal working hours.
A forensic interview is a structured conversation with a child intended to elicit detailed information about a possible event(s) that the child may have experienced or witnessed. The purposes of a forensic interview are:
- To obtain information from a child that may be helpful in a criminal investigation;
- To assess the safety of the child’s living arrangements;
- To obtain information that will either corroborate or refute allegations or suspicions of abuse and neglect;
- To assess the need for medical treatment and psychological care.
A forensic interview is conducted at the Washoe County CAC when there has been a report to law enforcement or the Washoe County Human Services Agency that the child may have been a victim of physical or sexual abuse or when a child may have witnessed a violent crime.
Forensic interviews at the Washoe County CAC are conducted by our forensic interview specialist or by one of the criminal investigators who have received advanced training on the forensic interviewing of child victims/witnesses. The forensic interviewers routinely participate in peer review to continually develop their skills and attend ongoing professional training.
Forensic interviews at the Washoe County CAC are recorded on to a digital video disc (DVD) and provided to law enforcement.
What should I expect if I’m visiting the Washoe County CAC for a scheduled forensic interview?
The Washoe County CAC was designed to reduce the number of interviews and decrease the number of people who will speak with your child.
The Washoe County CAC is a child-friendly interview center where children of all ages come to talk to a trained interview specialist about allegations of child abuse.
The process involves a team from multiple agencies and disciplines (district attorney’s office, law enforcement, human services, victim advocates, medical and mental health).
What do I tell my child about coming to the WASHOE COUNTY CAC for a forensic interview?
“We are going to talk to someone who needs to know what happened. This person talks to kids all the time about similar things. You need to tell the truth and tell everything that you remember. You are not in trouble.”
You might tell your child:
“We are going to the Washoe County CAC. It is a special place where kids go to talk about important stuff and to tell the truth. The person you will be talking to talks to lots of kids about what might have happened to them. It’s okay to tell them everything. You are not in any trouble.”
When you arrive, you and your child will wait in a room with a television, toys, games, and books. Once you meet with the forensic interviewer, your child will be taken to the talking room. The talking room is an interview room and it is designed to make the child feel comfortable with child-size table and chairs while telling his or her story. The room is audio and video recorded.
Who will my child talk to?
Your child will be talking to one of our trained forensic interviewers. They have attended basic and advanced training on how to talk to children about difficult subjects. It’s important that any details about the alleged abuse be coming from the child. Our interviewers are trained to not ask suggestive questions and to move at a pace that is comfortable for your child. They never force a child to talk to them.
May I talk to my child about what happened?
No, not unless your child brings up the subject and wants to talk about it. In that case, listen to your child without comments and reassure your child that everything will be all right.
May I watch the interview?
Although some care givers would like to be present during the interview, it is the policy of the CAC to not allow this. Only professionals directly involved in the investigation are allowed to observe the interview. This is done to reduce the possible stress that can be placed on a child and to provide a neutral setting for the child and the investigation.
There will be an advocate available to answer questions for you while your child is being interviewed.
We understand how being in the same room with our child may influence what the child says or doesn’t say. If our child doesn’t answer quickly enough, we may answer for them. Whenever we have made exceptions to the rule, it just doesn’t work. It’s hard for us as moms and dads to sit quietly or not influence the interview with a concerned look or an emotional reaction.
Parents are also not allowed in the observation room during their child’s interview. We have three different interview rooms and to ensure confidentiality, only professionals are allowed in the observation room.
All of the interviews at the Washoe County CAC are recorded to minimize the number of times your child will have to talk about what happened. The DVD recording of the interview is turned over to law enforcement as part of evidence in a potential criminal case.
What will happen after the interview?
You will be able to talk to members of the investigation team. They will tell you in general terms what they learned from the interview. You will have an opportunity to ask questions and voice your concerns.
Remember, your child’s interview is just the first step in the investigative process. There may be other witnesses that need to be interviewed. There may be physical evidence that needs to be photographed or collected. The alleged offender will be interviewed. So, at this point in the process it’s often difficult to predict what will happen. All of the information will be turned over to the county attorney who will decide whether or not to prosecute. Your advocate will keep in regular contact to let you know what is happening on the case. If you have questions at any point during the investigation or prosecution of your child’s case, please feel free to contact your advocate.
Parents and children are often worried about whether they will have to testify in court. It’s really way too early to know. If this happens, our advocate will be with you every step of the way and will even provide a special Court School to help your child feel more comfortable.
What will I be doing while my child is talking to someone?
You will be meeting with an advocate. They want to answer any questions you have. If they don’t know the answer, it is their job to find out. They will listen to your worries and concerns and provide resources to help you through a difficult time. Our advocates are not therapists, but they can listen and get you the help you need. They will also provide you information about our on-site crisis counseling.
Will my child need a medical exam?
Based on the allegation or the interview, the members of the investigative team may decide a medical evaluation is needed. For many children, knowing their bodies are okay is a huge relief and if seeing one of our medical providers will make them less worried or anxious then be sure to let us know. That is always an option.
The purpose of the medical evaluation at the Washoe County CAC is:
- To help ensure the health, safety and well-being of your child;
- To diagnose, document and address any medical conditions resulting from abuse;
- To differentiate medical findings that are indicative of abuse from those which may be explained by other medical conditions or caused by accident;
- To assess the child for any developmental, emotional or behavioral problems needing further evaluations and treatment and make referrals as necessary;
- To reassure and educate the child and non-offending caregiver(s).
Medical evaluations conducted at the Washoe County CAC are conducted by health care providers with pediatric experience and child abuse expertise. We do not have 24 hour/7 day a week coverage for medical evaluations unless an emergency arises. Child victims of abuse who need immediate medical evaluation are served in hospital emergency rooms. A medical evaluation occurs at the Washoe County CAC when there has been a report to law enforcement or the Washoe County Human Services Agency that the child may have been a victim of physical or sexual abuse. In limited situations, a medical evaluation is conducted at the request of the victim by first contacting crisis call center.
The CARES (Child Abuse Response and EvaluationS) examination is provided for those children who are suspected of having experienced age-inappropriate sexual activities. These children are at risk for incurring both anogenital trauma and sexually transmitted diseases. In addition, children and adolescents may express concerns about their body’s health. These are best addressed in a complete medical history and head to toe examination.
All children can benefit from a comprehensive medical evaluation. Because our bodies have great healing capacity, the doctor or nurse may not identify physical harm, however that does not mean that abuse did not occur. The medical examination can have great therapeutic value to the child and parent, and is one of the first steps in the process of healing following sexual abuse regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred.
The examination is a noninvasive head to toe examination done by a pediatrician or a nurse practitioner that specializes in physically and sexually abused children. The anogenital examination is done with the aid of a colposcope, which is simply a very large magnifying camera and light, and never touches or goes inside the child being examined. The examination is not painful and is not traumatic. This examination is not like the exam adult women get yearly with their ObGyn. The doctor or nurse will touch the child on the outside of their body, and all parts of the body will be looked at closely. This examination will help to reassure the child that they are normal and healthy.
When you arrive, you will need to fill out some paperwork. The doctor or nurse will speak with the caregiver then to the child. The examination will occur after speaking with medical staff. After the examination, the doctor nurse will speak with the caregiver and relay exam findings and answer any questions or concerns. The examination is done at the Washoe County CAC in a child-friendly environment.
ADVOCACY AND SUPPORT
We all recognize that how well a child will do following the disclosure of abuse has a lot to do with the support of the non-offending caregiver. When that support is compromised, children often suffer long term emotional consequences.
Our advocates play a key role in helping to support the child victim and the non-offending caregiver throughout the investigation and prosecution of the case. The job of the advocate is to listen and support in whatever way possible and to seek out information and resources.
Please make good use of your advocate each step of the way.
Victim advocates are professionals trained to support victims of crime. Advocates offer victims information, emotional support, and help finding resources and filling out paperwork. Your Advocate here at the Washoe County CAC will assist you with the following:
- Providing information on victimization;
- Providing information on crime prevention;
- Providing information on victims' legal rights and protections;
- Providing information on the criminal justice process;
- Providing emotional support to victims;
- Helping victims with safety planning;
- Helping victims with victim compensation applications;
- Providing referrals for other services for victim
How Advocates Work with Victims
Advocates offer victims information about the different options available to them and support victims' decision-making.
If You Are a Victim
It may be difficult for you to reach out for help. But you may find that Victim Advocates can offer you information, support, and access to helpful services you might not know about. Victims are often relieved to know that agencies in their community want to make sure they are safe and have the help they need to recover from the impact of the crime.
MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES
Will my child need counseling?
Some children do and some don’t. Every child is unique in how they cope. Some may not need counseling now, but will need counseling down the road. Maybe you need counseling more than your child to help you cope with everything that has happened. Your advocate will listen and provide referral information. What we do know is that children who are believed and protected from continued abuse are able to do quite well.
It is very important to your child’s recovery that you work with a therapist specifically trained and experienced in trauma and abuse. This is a field with special expertise.
In most instances, it is important to provide your child with an opportunity to talk with a professional. Too often parents just want their child to “forget” about the abuse and “move on.” That’s easier said than done. Counseling can help your child and family through this very difficult time. It’s best to address issues and concerns now, rather than years later. We have therapists available at the Washoe County CAC .
Without effective therapeutic intervention, many child victims of abuse will suffer ongoing or long term consequences that may impact them throughout their lifetimes. Our multidisciplinary team response includes access to trauma assessment and specialized trauma focused mental health services for child victims and non-offending family members.
Your advocate can provide referral information to a therapist in the community or to a therapist located at the Washoe County CAC.
The Washoe County CAC is located in Reno, Nevada and provides a safe place for abused children to talk about their abuse. The CAC’s therapy staff offers short-term services to abused children and the non-offending family member who are dealing with the aftermath of abuse. The therapist work with outside agencies to coordinate long-term care to ensure child victims and their family receive the resources they may need, every step of the way.
My child seems fine. Why does my child need therapy?
Children deal with difficult experiences in many different ways. Even if your child seems fine they may still have questions or distressing thoughts about what occurred. Many children may not display any symptoms of the abuse. Issues from abuse may emerge early in life or later, and the earlier a child is seen by a therapist the better it is for the child and family when those issues arise. Therapy can help give your child the tools necessary to deal with what has happened so your child can readjust to life.
I want my child to forget that this ever happened?
It is natural to wish the abuse away. It is natural to want everything to go back to the way it was before the abuse or the disclosure. Our therapists will never force your child to talk about what has happened. The therapist will simply provide a safe place for your child to talk about what they want to help process what has happened.
My child doesn’t want to talk about the abuse. I don’t want to force my child to talk.
When abuse occurs there is often a lot of secrecy that surrounds the act. That same secrecy makes it hard for children to disclose their abuse and talk about it openly. That same secrecy increases the chances that children may hold on to thoughts and feelings about themselves that are not healthy. This can negatively impact their ability to function in some areas of their lives. Having your child in counseling is another way to communicate to them that they can talk about what has happened to them, and you will make sure they have the support they need to be healthy. Trained therapist, who have experience working with children who have been abused, will never force your child to talk about the abuse, a trained therapist will use specific tools and techniques to help your child’s healing process.
Does the therapy cost money?
No. All therapy sessions are offered at no cost and are designed to meet the unique needs of each child while they transit to long-term treatment.