CHILD & FAMILY ADVOCACY CENTER
WHAT IS CFAC?
The Child and Family Advocacy Center (CFAC) provides services for the Elkhart County multidisciplinary team (MDT) that investigates child victim crimes, by interviewing children that may have been victims or witnesses of sexual abuse, physical abuse, or neglect. The MDT is made up of the Department of Child Services (DCS), Law Enforcement, and the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
To understand what a CFAC is, you must understand what children face without one. Without CFAC, the child may end up having to tell the worst story of their life over and over again, to doctors, police officers, lawyers, therapists, investigators, judges, and others. They may have to talk about that traumatic experience in a police station where they think they might be in trouble, or they may be asked the wrong questions by a well-meaning teacher or other adults that could hurt the case against the abuser. When police or DCS believe a child may be experiencing abuse, the child is brought to CFAC by a caregiver or other “safe” adult. At CFAC, the child tells their story once to a trained interviewer who knows the right questions to ask in a way that does not retraumatize the child.
WHAT IS A FORENSIC INTERVIEW?
A forensic interview is a fact-finding, objective interview designed to reduce the possible trauma to the child while allowing them to talk about their abuse experience. The agencies involved in the case watch the interview through a live feed while a specially trained forensic interviewer talks one-on-one with the child. This allows the agencies involved in the case to hear and have input into the interview without the child having contact with multiple professionals or having to talk about what happened multiple times. Every aspect of the interview process, including the toy-filled waiting room, highly trained staff, and the child-friendly environment, is in place to make the experience comfortable for the child and to allow them to talk about their situation. Read tips for parents bringing their children into CFAC below.
The Child and Family Advocacy Center is accredited by the National Children’s Alliance
WHO DOES THE ADVOCACY CENTER COLLABORATE WITH?
• Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department
• Elkhart City Police Department
• Goshen Police Department
• Nappanee Police Department
• Bristol Police Department
• Wakarusa Police Department
• Middlebury Police Department
• Millersburg Police Department
• Indiana State Police
• Department of Child Services
• Oaklawn Victims Assistance Services
• Bristol Street Pediatrics
• Prosecutor’s office
• Lincoln Therapeutic Partnerships
• Saint Joseph Medical Center
• Department of Homeland Security
• Federal Bureau of Investigations
TIPS FOR PARENTS BRINGING THEIR CHILD TO CFAC
SHOULD I TALK TO MY CHILD ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED?
No. If your child brings up the subject and wants to talk about it, listen without questioning. Be sure to reassure your child that you will be taking care of them. If your child does tell you additional information, please contact DCS or Law Enforcement.
HOW DO I EXPLAIN TO MY CHILD WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN?
It is helpful to inform your child that someone wishes to talk with him or her about what was reported. However, it is equally important not to rehearse with your child or tell your child what to say. You should let your child know that they will be in a safe place and the adults they are visiting will let them know exactly what is happening each step of the way. Avoid describing CFAC as a doctor’s office, as this often confuses children or they fear they will have to get a shot.
MAY I WATCH THE INTERVIEW?
No. Due to the sensitive nature of these investigations, it is necessary to provide a neutral setting for the child. This allows them to feel comfortable to speak freely without the influence of other individuals in the room.
HOW LONG WILL MY VISIT LAST?
All visits are different depending on the situation of the child. Depending on the attention span, talkative nature of the child, severity and history of alleged abuse, etc., interview times vary greatly. Please allow time for a brief meeting with our family advocate to gather information, the forensic interview with the child and a post-interview meeting.
WHERE DO I GO WHEN I GET TO CAPS?
You do not need to enter through the main door of CAPS. You can access CFAC by using the door on the right side of the building (opposite the elk and flagpole). Ring the buzzer next to the door to gain access into CFAC.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE INTERVIEW?
After the interview is completed, a DCS and/or Law Enforcement representative will speak with you about what steps will be taken next.
WHO CAN I ASK ABOUT THE INTERVIEW?
DCS and Law Enforcement are the only agencies able to answer questions regarding your child’s interview. The information they provide may be limited due to the fact that this may be an ongoing investigation. They will tell you everything necessary to keep your child safe.
WHAT IF MY CHILD NEEDS A MEDICAL EXAM?
The CFAC staff will work collaboratively with DCS and Law Enforcement representatives to ensure a medical exam is scheduled if necessary. If a medical exam is needed, arrangements will be made to have your child seen at the hospital. The hospital staff are trained to provide exams in a manner which is sensitive to past trauma and that allows the child to be in control of the exam. Medical exams are free of charge and are not billed to the family’s insurance.
HOW DO I ACCESS ADDITIONAL SERVICES?
You will likely meet with a CFAC family advocate during your child’s interview and you will have a chance to ask and talk about potential services needed. The CFAC family advocate can assist with questions you may have and ensure you are aware of other community resources that may be helpful to you and your family.
WHAT IF MY CHILD NEEDS MENTAL HEALTH COUNSELING?
The DCS representative can assist you in getting linked with counseling services. Upon request, the CFAC family advocate will provide additional follow up to families regarding mental health referrals and accessing appropriate support services.
HOW MUCH IS A VISIT TO CFAC?
There is no cost to families or children for any services at CFAC.