Where or to whom do I report my child’s sexual abuse?
There is an important distinction in determining which agency investigates which child abuse allegations. Law enforcement and Department of Family Child Services (DFCS) investigate familial or caretaker cases, while only law enforcement investigates 3rd party perpetrating cases.
If the case is familial or caretaker, then the case should be reported to DFCS in the county where the child lives. If the case involves a 3rd party perpetrator the allegations should be reported to law enforcement in the county where the abuse occurred.
If you have a 3rd party perpetrating case and a non-offending caregiver who does not want DFCS involved, the non-offending caregiver can report to law enforcement instead of DFCS. If there is a case in which DFCS and law enforcement have equal jurisdiction over, assume that both will be investigating.
What will DFCS ask me when I call to make the report?
When the non-offending caregiver calls DFCS to make the report they will ask the non-offending caregiver identifying information about the child and the alleged abuser. For example, name, address, date of birth, parent’s name, and the school the child attends, and details of the abuse. This information is very important so that the intake worker can determine if there is sufficient information to find the child, to determine if the information meets their criteria for sexual abuse, and to determine the level of risk to the child.
What does DFCS do during their investigation?
During the investigation, the DFCS caseworker will:
Check DFCS records for any previous reports on the child and alleged perpetrator
Visit the child at home or school to observe and talk with the child
Meet with the family to discuss allegations
Interview alleged perpetrator in a face to face manner
Talk with anyone else who might have any additional information about the situation
Obtain release forms for medical information
Will DFCS put the child in foster care?
When working with child abuse cases, it is important to note that the main purpose of DFCS is to ensure the safety of the child in the home, not to remove children from their homes. If DFCS staff believe that the child is in danger at home, they will work with the non-offending caregiver immediately to create a safe environment for the child. If the non-offending caregiver is not cooperative, the child will be removed and placed in a temporary foster care situation. Likewise, if the DFCS investigator determines the child is safe in the home with the non-offending caregiver, the child will remain in the home. DFCS will conduct a risk assessment and create a safety plan.
How can I help my child?
Increase validation of child’s disclosure. (I’m glad you told, I know it was difficult)
Advise the child that the abuse was not their fault but the fault of the person who did this
Normalize situation, get back into routine
Respect your child’s privacy
Allow child to express their feelings
Normalize feelings. Tell child it is ok to feel this way and other children who have been abused felt the same way
Reassure the child that you will protect them
Take time for yourself; in order for your child to be healthy, you must be healthy
Never blame the child
Don’t interrogate the child. Let the child tell you what happened when he or she is ready
Don’t give the child special privileges. Don’t make drastic changes to rules/discipline
Don’t tell everyone about the abuse, limit conversations about abuse especially in child’s presence
Don’t lose patience during the recovery process. Every child is different.
Don’t try to protect the child and isolate from their world. It only makes the child feel more “different”
Don’t promise the child that the abuser will go to jail
Don’t ignore secondary trauma
The child may become focused on the sexual abuse and perceive that everyday occurrences happen because he or she is a victim of sexual abuse. The adult guardian caring for the child must be patient. It is important that sexually abused children be encouraged to play with other children, so that they can feel “normal” again. Take a little more time to reassure them that they are no different from other children.
A second part to helping a child is to understand what they are feeling which might give a non-offending caregiver insight into the child’s behavior. We encourage all non-offending caregivers to attend The Cottage support group to understand what those feelings may be.
Does my child need counseling?
Children are all different; some will show many signs of distress after disclosure and some will show no signs. This doesn’t mean that the child is not having any problems. Remember, most child victims of sexual abuse learn to hide their abuse from other caring adults; they have learned to disguise their feelings as a means of survival. Immediate counseling can assist them in creating a safe environment so that negative feelings created by the sexual abuse can be dispelled. Furthermore, research on child sexual abuse shows that the sooner after disclosure a child receives intervention and counseling, the better off they will be in the long run.
We have already discussed how some victims of child sexual abuse may feel after disclosure. If these emotions aren’t dealt with, those negative feelings will fester over time and may eventually reveal themselves in negative behaviors. Some of the long term effects of child sexual abuse are:
Acting out through violence or anger
Becoming an abuser themselves
Problems at school
Difficulty in trusting
Marital relationship problems
Alcohol and drug abuse
Depression and suicide