It is scary to know a child abuse and neglect report was made about your child.
Maybe, you’re reading this because your child said something at school and a child abuse report call was made because someone suspects you of abusing your child. Or, maybe your child disclosed abuse to you and you were the one who made the call.
Regardless, it is scary to know a hotline call has been made about your child! You don’t know what to expect. As a parent, you are worried about the impact it will have on your child and family. This fear is understandable, especially if you’ve never been through a hotline call before as a family.
What’s happens after a report is made?
Each state is different, but you can look up the procedure for your state online. In Missouri, the call is taken as a report, juvenile report, family assessment or referral depending on the information the caller provides. Then, if the call is taken as a report, the case will be assigned to an investigator who will talk to the child, child’s parents, alleged abuser, and others to determine if the child is in danger. In most cases, a law enforcement officer will accompany the investigator. It is important for the child and caregiver to be honest and give the investigators all of the information possible.
This visit can be scary for some children. Your child isn’t used to being asked these types of questions. Furthermore, you child likely isn’t used to seeing police officers show up at their classroom door or house. Even as an adult, you may feel scared. Sometimes, children are afraid something “bad” will happen if they talk. However, your job here is to reassure your child and to encourage them to be honest. So, tell them you love them no matter what and that the people talking to them are just here to help. How you react can have a huge impact on how your child feels about the situation.
The Child Advocacy Center is a place where your child may go to be interviewed by specialists.
Occasionally, a parent or caregiver is asked to take their child to a Child Advocacy Center (CAC) for a forensic interview. This is so a specially trained mental health professional can talk to the child about what happened. Child Advocacy Centers are community-based, child-friendly organizations. These centers work with investigators from the Children’s Division, local law enforcement, juvenile officers, and prosecutors during to aid in the investigative process. CACs offer therapy, medical exams, courtroom preparation, victim advocacy, case management, and other services.
Basically, the idea is that the child only has to tell their story once and everyone who needs to hear it can hear it. Furthermore, they’re able to tell this story in a place that is less scary than a police station.
CACs perform forensic interviews to allow the child to tell his/her story. Forensic Interviewers are trained professionals. They will ask the child developmentally appropriate, non-leading questions to help the child describe what happened. Additionally, the interviewer will wear a microphone. Then, officials from the Children’s Division and a law enforcement officer will listen to the interview from the other side of a double-sided mirror.
What happens to the perpetrator who has abused or neglected my child?
After the interview, the Children’s Division and law enforcement will look at the evidence. . Sometimes, there are cases where the Children’s Division has enough evidence to proceed with the case, but law enforcement does not.
It is the Children’s Division’s job to keep your child safe moving forward. Therefore, if they find evidence that your child was abused, they will discuss a plan to make sure your child doesn’t have contact with the person they suspect may have hurt them. Sometimes, law enforcement will determine there is enough evidence to arrest the perpetrator. However, law enforcement’s decision about charging the person who may have hurt your child is separate from the Children Division’s efforts to make sure your child is safe now.
Will the person who hurt my child be arrested?
Sometimes, law enforcement may decide there is enough evidence to arrest the perpetrator. Some cases go to court. This might mean the child will have to testify about what happened. However, most court cases don’t go to court. In fact, most Child Advocacy Centers have advocates who will support the child and family throughout the entire process.
There are a wide range of things that can happen here. But, it’s important you as a family get support from mental health professionals who can guide you through this process. It’s important to know ahead of time that sometimes people have committed child abuse but they never end up going to jail or even being convicted of a crime. Many people assume that everyone who hurts a child end up in jail. The truth is that a lot of factors can impact whether or not a perpetrator ends up convicted of a crime.
However, just because someone isn’t convicted, that doesn’t mean the abuse didn’t happen. Whether or not the person is found guilty in a court of law, your child may still be impacted by what happened to them.
Will my child be taken away if they have experienced child abuse or neglect?
Federal law requires children to be placed in the least restrictive environment possible. So, this means the Children’s Division must do everything possible to keep the child from being removed from their home. Children are not removed from their parents or caregivers in the vast majority of cases. Often, they will create a safety plan to protect the child. Safety plans are unique to the family and situation. They will also help the family to find the resources available to them so they can heal.
In the rare event that the decision is made that a child has to (at least temporarily) stay someone other than your home, the Children’s Division will do everything in their power to place the child with family or friends before putting them in foster care. The friend or family member that steps in when something like this happens doesn’t have to be a licensed foster parent. Therefore, the person could be a relative, teacher, pastor, or family friend. However, in these situations the adults in the home must be able to pass a background check. Then, they have to agree to follow through with the safety plan.
Please keep in mind that this is not common. We have to touch on it, because it’s every parent’s worst fear, right? However, please don’t assume that your child will be taken away simply because a hotline phone call was made. If you jump to the worst case scenario, your child will likely pick up on that fear. Instead, remind yourself that is very rare and focus on supporting your child as an investigation is done.
Trauma treatment can help with recovery from child abuse and neglect
If your child has been through something traumatic, therapy can be a very important part of the recovery process. Your child is trying to process what happened to them and probably feeling a wide range of emotions. Even if you tell your child they can talk to you about anything, it’s very different to talk to a parent versus a therapist. They may try to protect you by not talking about certain parts. Or they might just need to hear from someone outside their family that what they went through was difficult.
Trauma therapy helps survivors of child abuse work through issues related to the abuse. Childhood trauma can have long-lasting effects on an individual. However, therapy can help the survivor work through their complicated feelings to understand what happened and move forward with hope and confidence.
Trauma Therapy for children who have experienced child abuse and neglect
Trauma Focused-Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) is a common, evidence-based counseling intervention for children ages 3-18 who have been through some sort of trauma.. TF-CBT is relatively brief and typically takes only 12-20 counseling sessions.
The goals of TF-CBT
- Help the child and their caregivers learn effective skills to cope with trauma-related emotional and behavioral problems.
- Face and resolve those problems in a safe and therapeutic way.
- Use the skills they have learned to move on with their lives in a safe and positive manner.
The phases of TF-CBT
The three phases of TF-CBT are stabilization, trauma narration and processing, and integration and consolidation. In TF-CBT, we summarize the different parts by using the acronym “PRACTICE.” They are Psychoeducation and Parenting skills, Relaxation, Affective regulation, Cognitive processing of the trauma, Trauma narrative, In vivo mastery of trauma reminders, Conjoint child-parent sessions and Enhancing future safety and development. The therapist guides the child and caregiver through each phase spending as much time on each component as needed.
TF-CBT reduces the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Specifically, TF-CBT reduces symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), trauma-related depression, anxiety, and behavior problems. It also improves and common trauma-related cognitive and emotional problems such as fear, shame, embarrassment, guilt, and self-blame. Also, TF-CBT helps you as the child’s caregiver learn parenting skills to help you and your child communicate better.
Kristi Sveum at Aspire Counseling can help your child heal from child abuse and neglect
Our newest therapist, Kristi Sveum, MSW, LCSW uses and is in the process of getting certified as a TF-CBT therapist. Kristi has worked with children and adolescents who have endured trauma for over 14 years. As a therapist, she has seen these youth come in having PTSD symptoms and leave therapy no longer experiencing these symptoms. They gain self-esteem. Then, they learn strategies to deal with trauma triggers and stressful situations. Additionally, she has seen caregivers who are distraught over their child’s trauma, manage their own feelings regarding the trauma. Then, they learn skills to support their child.
Begin trauma treatment for your child in Columbia, MO
At Aspire Counseling we understand how upsetting and traumatic it is to know that your child has experienced abuse or neglect. Therefore, Aspire Counseling strives to be a place that provides your child, and you as their parent, with comprehensive and empathetic trauma treatment. Ultimately, we hope you and your child will find healing from this experience and be able to move forward in your life. To begin trauma treatment in Mid-Missouri, please follow these steps:
- Call or email our Mid-Missouri mental health clinic to speak to our helpful care coordinator,
- Schedule a free in-person consultation meeting with Kristi, our trauma therapist.
- Begin trauma and PTSD therapy and give your child the tools they need to overcome the traumatic experience they have been through and find peace.
Other Services Offered at Aspire Counseling
At our Columbia, Missouri counseling clinic, we believe healing begins when you look past hurts, current obstacles and future worries directly in the eye and can confidently say, “I’ve got this.” Therefore, our empathetic counselors provide a variety of mental health services to give our clients the tools they need to cope with their challenges and lead a happy and healthy life.
Our therapy services include counseling for caregivers, counseling for chronic illness, postpartum counseling, grief counseling, counseling for teens, counseling for college students, counseling for adults, trauma and PTSD therapy, EMDR therapy, counseling for sexual assault and rape, anxiety therapy, counseling for depression, LGTBQ affirming counseling services, and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). To help you heal, our therapists contribute to our blog regularly. There they share useful information and tips to help you heal. To learn more about the many ways we can support you or your loved one on your healing journey, please contact our Mid-Missouri therapy clinic.
About the Author:
Kristi Sveum is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who offers mental health services at Aspire Counseling. She has lots of experience working with children and teenagers who have been abused or experienced other traumatic situations. Kristi is passionate about helping children find a sense of safety, no matter what has happened to them in the past.