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Frequently Asked Questions!

How can I protect my child from ever being abused?

How to Protect Your Child

95% of children are abused by someone they know, someone they trust. Someone you know and trust.  The number one thing for you to do is talk to your child.  Know the signs and symptoms of abuse.  We, parents have to teach our children how to be safe around people they know and strangers.  Let’s educate ourselves, let’s be aware and let’s share with others.

  • ENCOURAGE open communication with your child.
  • TALK to your child about their parts of the body that no one is allowed to see or touch.
  • Use everyday situations to keep the conversations about personal safety ongoing.
  • Know the policies and practices where your children are spending their time at. Ensure background checks are completed. Ask your child, stop by and check in to make sure the policies are being followed.
  • Be aware of who your child spends time with.
  • Avoid any overnight trips alone with an adult.
  • Do not put your child’s first name on clothing or school books. This puts your child on a first name basis with anyone.
  • Listen when your child tells you that he or she does not want to be with or go with someone.
  • Teach your child they have the right to say NO. Never make your child submit to physical contact if they do not want to.
  • Understand that no one should want to be with your child more than you. When someone is showing your child too much attention, ask yourself why.
  • Question any money or gifts your child brings home.
  • Ask your school to notify you when your child does not show up for school.
  • Believe your child if they say they have been abused.

 

Internet Safety

  • Know about the websites your child uses regularly. Visit websites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube and others. See what other kids are doing there and how much information you can learn by doing simple searches. Parents need to be aware of what is happening on-line.
  • Keep computers in common rooms of the house. Many children have laptops and computers in their bedrooms, allowing them many opportunities to spend hours on-line, potentially engaging in inappropriate behavior. Set the rules about internet safety and your values early on. Teach young children that they should not seek our relationships from on-line friends and that they should NEVER meet on-line friends in the real world.
What is the cost of services at Children's Alliance of South Texas?

 Children’s Alliance of South Texas serves abused children, their families and the professionals dedicated to helping them.  A variety of services are offered to you depending on your needs and the reason that you were referred to CAST. You can always call the Center if you have any questions or concerns.

The Children’s Alliance of South Texas, A Child Advocacy Center is a non-profit organization created to minimize the trauma of child abuse victims and to provide a multidisciplinary approach to facilitate the prevention, detection, investigation, and treatment of child abuse.  Currently, we are able to offer these services free of charge thanks to: grant assistance; financial support from individuals, organizations and businesses and gifts-in-kind.

The Center’s programs include:

  • Child Friendly Environment
  • Joint Investigations
  • Crisis Intervention
  • Forensic Interviews
  • Non-Acute Medical Examinations
  • Family Advocacy/ Support Services
  • Counseling
  • Training for professionals in related fields
  • Community Awareness
What is a forensic interview and why does my child need one?

Why does my child need a forensic interview?

If anything happened to your child or your child witnessed something, the environment provided by the CAC and the interviewer will be a safe place for your child to tell what happened in their own words.

Interviews are only conducted for CPS, Law Enforcement agencies and occasionally the District Attorney’s Office. These agencies will follow up on any investigative needs after the interview.A specially trained forensic interviewer conducts the interview. The interviewer is trained to understand children’s language and assess children’s development. The interviewer is also trained to ask questions in a non-leading way.

What did my child say in the forensic interview?

Because each case is handled personally and individually, normally your CPS caseworker and assigned Law Enforcement personnel will determine according to their investigation what information can be shared at what time. This can be frustrating at times, but each department has complex requirements that determine how each investigation is handled.

What can i expect after an interview?

How will my child act after the interview?

  • It is normal for your child to be anxious before and after the interview. Try to keep your responses to his or her feelings calm and reassuring. Behaviors, such as crying or shouting, in your child’s presence will only increase his or her fears or worries.
  • After the interview, your child may be unusually quiet. Allow your child to express his or her feelings at this point. Continue to reassure your child that telling his or her truth was the right thing to do, and you realize it took courage.
  • You may find your child appears relieved after being interviewed. Be careful not to represent the interview as “the end” to what your child must face. Ideally that would be the case, however, there is always the possibility that additional interviews may be necessary, or that the child may have to give a deposition or testify at a trial.

What should I say to my child after the interview?

  • It is important that you NOT ask your child any questions about what they said.
  • Follow their lead.  If they don’t bring it up, don’t talk about it, especially with young children.
  • If they share anything with you on their own, simply listen. You can listen compassionately, and non-judgmentally with responses such as, “I see,” “yes,” “mmm,” “I’m sure that was hard for you.”
  • Be careful not to interrogate your child after the interview. A simple question such as, “Do you feel sad right now?” or “Do you feel glad?” is appropriate. An example such as, “Did the policeman tell you he was going to put that bad person in jail?” is not appropriate.  Any questions you have may be asked of the CPS caseworker or law enforcement investigator.
  • Try not to react to what your child says. Children are sensitive to their parent’s reactions. If you become upset, your child may feel as if they have done something wrong to upset you.
  • If your child talks to you and discloses information about being abused, encourage your child by telling them it is not their fault. It is important that your child know that the abuse was not their fault, and they did nothing wrong.
  • Share any new information learned with CPS or Law Enforcement
  • Do let the child know that talking with the interviewer was the right thing to do and acknowledge the courage it took to do so.
  • It’s very important that the child be allowed to express his/her feelings.  Spending special time with the child may help them share his/her feelings and thoughts with you.
  • Be calm and supportive.  It may be difficult to listen, but the child needs to talk to someone who will believe and support them.  Don’t share your feelings of frustration or helplessness with the child.

How can I help my child?

  • Take care of yourself and your own feelings about your child’s abuse. Refrain from emotional outbursts about the abuse in front of your child – emotional behavior on your part will increase your child’s anxiety.
  • Believe your child.
  • Listen to your child. Give your child the chance to discuss feelings about the abuse and the abuser on their own timetable.
  • Avoid asking lots of questions or interrogating your child about the details of what happened.
  • Recognize that your child may have wide range of emotions – anger, sadness, anxiety, or positive feelings about the abuser.
  • Reassure your child the abuse was not her fault. Tell your child you will protect him from further abuse.
  • Refrain from talking with other adults in front of your child about the abuse, your child’s case or the abuser.
  • Make sure your child participates in recommended counseling.
  • Go to counseling yourself.
  • Believe your child can heal and be happy again.
  • Be patient with your child and yourself – healing takes time.

How can I participate in my child’s treatment?

  • Bring your child to therapy sessions regularly and on time.
  • Communicate with your child’s therapist about changes, new or other stresses in the household,  and anything that is affecting your child.
  • Participate in parent/ child sessions.
  • Participate in parent conferences with the therapist.
Will my child need a medical exam?
  • In some cases involving sexual or physical abuse, a medical examination may be necessary.
  • Sexual assault examinations are conducted by a nurse or other medical provider who has specialized training to do these types of exams. These nurses are referred to as SANE nurses (sexual assault nurse examiners).
  • When an child discloses sexual abuse within 96 hours of the incident, take the child immediately to a hospital.
Will my child need therapy?

The Center is committed to providing each child the opportunity for treatment either on-site or off-site from therapists and counselors who have experience and training in working with abused children. These professionals can help decide how the abuse has affected your child and family and what can be done to assist you in healing from the experience.

Will this case end up in court?

Will this case end up in court? 

Most cases never make it to trial. Most are handled through some type of plea arrangement. However, victims and their non-offending relatives do have input on what happens to the accused. In prosecuting a case, all parties must be ready to go to trial even though one is unlikely.

When will my child’s case go to court?

It can vary widely, depending on a number of factors. Some cases may not have enough evidence to proceed very far in the criminal justice system. A few cases may get resolved in less than a year. Many cases can easily take much more time than that. Time will allow you and your child to heal and get stronger in order to be ready for your day in court.

Why does everything take so long?

It can become frustrating when the progress of the “official” aspects of the abuse – the investigation and the legal process – seems to move so slowly. Everything must be done in certain ways and in a particular sequence. Any delay in one of the steps along the way delays the entire process waiting to follow. This does not mean the professionals involved aren’t doing their jobs or that they don’t care. Slowness can be an indication that the agencies involved are doing their jobs carefully and thoroughly. If they don’t gather all the necessary facts and evidence “before” they request that charges be filed, for example, the case may not be substantial enough to convince the prosecutor’s office that charges are justified. During this time, devote your efforts to the part of the situation over which you DO have control: helping your child and your family. If you feel you are doing something positive, the slowness of the legal process won’t be quite as frustrating. Being able to see the progress you and your family are making in how you relate to one another, seeing your child smile again-will make it easier for you to push the frustrations of any “waiting period” to the sidelines of your life.

What is the role of the Multi-Disciplinary Team?

“Multidisciplinary” is a team approach that includes the vital resources of law enforcement, Child Protective Services, Victim Service Providers, Prosecutors, Medical Personnel, Mental Health Professionals, Community Volunteers and other professionals with special skills in helping child abuse victims and their protective family members. By working together, using the Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) approach, we can do a better job of helping victims recover and bringing offenders to justice.s joint investigations

  • Minimizes duplicative efforts and mixed messages to victim families
  • Team approach to interview process
  • Coordinates evidence gathering, follow-up, and tracking of cases
  • Regular review of cases – sharing information, expertise and experience
What are the different individual roles of the MDT?

(Children’s Alliance of South Texas/ Child Protective Services/ Law Enforcement and the District Attorney’s Office)
Children’s Alliance of South Texas

  • Functions as a separate entity working solely as an advocate for the best interests of the child within the criminal and civil justice systems
  • Provides a child friendly atmosphere for children with trained staff to conduct forensic interviews
  • Provides counseling services or referrals, resource information, case follow up and sexual assault exams or referrals

Children Protective Services

  • Investigates allegations of possible abuse if a caretaker or family member in the home allegedly committed the abuse or if the family members do not appear protective or are negligent toward the care of the child

Law Enforcement

  • Conducts criminal investigations of child abuse cases in which a crime may have occurred as defined by the Texas Family Code and Texas Penal Code. Depending on the situation, it is possible for CPS to investigate alone or with Law Enforcement. Law Enforcement may also conduct an investigation without CPS involvement.

District Attorney’s/County Attorney’s Office

  • Prosecutes all criminal cases of physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect of a child where the alleged perpetrator is either a juvenile or an adult