Frequently Asked Questions
What should I do if I think a child is being abused?
To report suspected child abuse in Illinois, call your local police department or 1-800-25-ABUSE (1-800-252-2873). If the incident occurred in a different state, call the child protective services for that state.
How does a child get referred to the Franklin-Williamson Child Advocacy Center (CAC)?
Children are referred to the CAC from either law enforcement or the Department of Children and Family Services when a report alleging child abuse and/or severe physical abuse has been made and an investigation has been initiated with the respective department.
What happens when the child arrives at the CAC?
The CAC office is housed in a child-focused facility where the CAC staff will greet the child and his/her family members and explain what they can expect during their visit. While the child is being interviewed, the CAC staff will provide parents/guardians information about education, support and treatment services available to the child and non-offending significant others. CAC services are provided from the point of referral to the CAC and will be available until such time as the family no longer desires services regardless of the outcome of the case.
What is a forensic interview, what’s it's purpose and why is it recorded?
A Forensic Interview is a legally justifiable, fact-finding interview with a child conducted by a specially trained professional at the request of law enforcement or DCFS. Forensic Interviews are designed to provide children the opportunity to disclose abuse to a neutral party in a child-friendly setting. Forensic interviewers are specially trained in the areas of child development, linguistics, civil and criminal offenses, child protection concerns, memory, suggestibility and disclosure. Forensic interviews are recorded in order to minimize the number of times a victim must detail their trauma. The recording also increases the accuracy of information provided to professionals investigating the case, particularly law enforcement. All interviews are viewed in real time by DCFS investigators and law enforcement detectives to increase the collaboration and efficiency of the investigation. This interview is utilized by the multi-disciplinary team as part of the criminal investigation and must meet certain legal criteria. Prior to the advent of Children’s Advocacy Centers, children had to retell the details of their nightmare over and over to various investigative agencies, compounding the initial trauma.
Are parents or guardians allowed to watch the interview or sit with the child?
No, parents or family members are not allowed to view the interview. Only agencies with investigative responsibilities on a case are permitted to observe the forensic interview. The interview is part of an investigation and anyone viewing the interview could be served by a court subpoena.
What happens after the interview is over?
Law enforcement, CAC staff, and DCFS will meet with parents and inform them as to how the investigation will proceed. The services provided by the CAC do not end when families leave the Center. Our advocates will remain in touch with clients in order to keep them informed about the progress of the case, access needed services and/or assist in legal proceedings that may arise in the course of the investigation.
How do I REACT to my child who has disclosed sexual abuse?
First, try to keep your natural reactions under control. You may want to react with a verbal or physical outburst, but it is best to share these reactions only with another adult at a later time. Your child needs to know that you believe them unconditionally. It is your responsibility to report the abuse, not to prove the abuse occurred. Children will rarely lie about being sexually abused. They are more likely to deny that it happened after a disclosure is made in fear of repercussions.
What can I SAY to my child who has disclosed sexual abuse?
Thank you for telling me. I believe you and I am glad that you told me.
I don’t know what will happen next, but it is my job to help keep you safe.
This is not your fault. You did the right thing by telling an adult.
You are very important to me, and I will do my best to keep you safe.
As a parent or caregiver, it may be very upsetting if your child disclosed to another adult before you. You may feel upset and hurt, but try to understand that your child is trying to protect you from being hurt. Be thankful that they told an adult and reinforce your communication with your child at a later date.
What NOT to say to your child following a disclosure of abuse?
Do not ask detailed questions about the abuse, as that will be covered by the appropriate authorities. Do not ask why the child didn’t come to you sooner, as they may feel that they are in trouble. Do not ask your child to “forget what happened”. Abuse is a traumatic event that can have lasting effects. Help your child to deal with their feelings in the appropriate manner through the proper counseling.
How is the Franklin-Williamson Child Advocacy Center funded?
At the heart of our mission is a commitment to support the work of our direct care staff so they can continue to help young victims rebuild their lives. Funding for the Franklin-Williamson Child Advocacy Center program is provided through state and federal grants, a Williamson County tax referendum, fundraising events, and donations from individuals and foundations interested in assisting us in helping child abuse victims. The CAC is a 501c3 not-for-profit corporation and all donations are tax deductible.