what we do
A forensic interview is a neutral, developmentally and culturally appropriate conversation with a child intended to explore detailed information about a possible event(s) that the child may have experienced or witnessed. The purposes of a forensic interview are:
1. To obtain information from a child that may be helpful in a criminal investigation;
2. To assess the safety of the child;
3. To obtain information for law enforcement and child protective services to use to either support or refute allegations of child maltreatment;
4. To assess the medical and mental health needs of the child.
A forensic interview is conducted at the Georgia Center when there has been a report to law enforcement or the Department of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS) that the child may have been a victim of physical or sexual abuse or when a child may have witnessed a violent crime.
At times, an extended forensic interview may be needed to accommodate a child’s developmental or emotional needs. An extended forensic interview is a multi-session structured interview. It may be recommended when a single forensic interview was not adequate to fully assess the concerns related to the child’s safety or a criminal investigation.
Forensic interviews at the Georgia Center are conducted by our forensic interviewers who have had at least 40 hours of specialized training on how to properly question children. The forensic interviewers routinely participate in monthly peer review meetings to continually develop their skills.
All forensic interviews at the Georgia Center are digitally recorded.
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 child’s parents or relatives who are the non-offending caregiver(s). When that support is compromised, children often suffer long term emotional consequences.
Our family advocates work to ensure that a child’s non-offending caregivers feel supported during the investigation process. The job of the family advocate is to listen and support the caregiver in whatever way possible. Family advocates:
- Meet with caregivers at the time of the interview to explain the interview and investigation process
- Listen to the concerns of the caregivers
- Link the caregivers to appropriate community resources for the child and family
- Educate the caregiver on the dynamics of abuse so that the caregiver does not feel so isolated.
- Follow-up with the caregiver after the interview to make sure that the family was connected to the necessary resources.
Caregivers are informed that they can contact the family advocates at any time with questions or concerns.
At Appalachian Children’s Center, we work within a multidisciplinary framework following our local child abuse protocols for Fannin, Gilmer and Pickens Counties. Our Multi-Disciplinary Team consists of professionals from different fields who come together to ensure the most effective coordinated response is obtained for every child and family. Members of the MDT include law enforcement, child protective services (DFCS), prosecutors, medical staff, therapists, victim advocates and staff at the Appalachian Children’s Center.
The staff at ACC joins with other teams members to facilitate the multidisciplinary approach to intervention, investigation, prosecution and treatment of abuse. Child abuse is a problem that an entire community must address together. No one profession or agency has all of the knowledge, skills and resources to address the needs of these children and their families.
The primary treatment model employed at ACC is Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT). TF-CBT is widely regarded as the most effective treatment with sexually abused and traumatized children. It has the strongest research support of any treatment model with traumatized children and is identified as “Best Practice” for therapy with sexually abused children.[i]
TF-CBT specifically helps children (and parents) to:
- Learn about trauma and child sexual abuse
- Develop effective ways of expressing emotions and coping with difficult emotions
- Therapeutically process sexual abuse and trauma experiences and memories
- Develop, enhance, and reinforce knowledge and skills that will promote safety and growth beyond the formal conclusion of therapy
Caregivers and other supportive adults are valuable participants in TF-CBT. We know that a caregiver is likely to be with the child much more than the therapist and will be their support well after therapy ends. Involving caregivers and other support persons is beneficial in many ways, including the following:
- Supportive involved adults(s) can reinforce the youth’s use of skills outside therapy
- Caregivers and others may benefit from the information and interventions, too (for themselves and to better understand the experiences of their child)
- Caregiver(s) may need specific skills for managing child behavior problems, to reinforce the importance of boundaries and limits, and improve the quality of their interactions with their child.
- Caregiver(s) need support and a place to express and cope with their own thoughts and feelings
Therapy sessions at ACC are typically once a week for 60-90 minutes. During a typical session the therapist may meet with the child for part of the session, the parent for part of the session, and may also meet with the parent and child together.
Why Child Advocacy Centers Exist
In 1985, Former Alabama Congressman Robert E. “Bud” Cramer, who was then a District Attorney, organized an effort to formulate a child- and family-focused response to the investigation and service delivery process to allegations and disclosures of child sexual abuse.
Abused children were often:
- Further traumatized as a result of repetitious interviews by many investigative authorities
- Subject to an adult-model of interrogation
- Lacked connection to medical or mental health services
A multi-disciplinary team (MDT) response was absent to assist them in their investigative and healing journey. In response to needing a better system to support child victims of sexual abuse, the first Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) was formed in 1985 in Alabama housed at the National Children Advocacy Center (nationalcac.org). Over 950 CACs exist in the United States and in more than 10 countries throughout the world.
Our Contact Details
Monday – Friday
Weekdays – After Hours
& Forensic Interviews
By Appointment Only