crosses all social, ethnic and socio-economic boundaries
Child abuse is called the “silent epidemic” because it impacts so many children and families, yet is often not talked about. Child abuse is defined by the Texas Family Code as acts or omissions by a person that result in physical, emotional, sexual or neglectful injury to a child.
Child abuse not only affects the victimized children, but it has far-reaching impacts on families, the courts and criminal justice system, hospitals and health care, jails, mental health services, law enforcement, our schools, and human services agencies.
The first step in ending child abuse is knowledge. Learn about child abuse. Be aware of the incidence. If you see it, report it. Help children be safe. Be responsible parents, family members, neighbors, teachers and friends. Together, we can reduce the incidence of child abuse, help children who have been abused heal and thrive, and prevent other children from becoming victims.
Signs and symptoms can include but are not limited to the following:
Note: This list is intended for guidance and informational purposes only. It is not intended as an inclusive list of all possible signs and symptoms of abuse. Some children do not display any signs or symptoms.
Be supportive of the child but do not promise the child anything that is beyond your control. Listen to the child and ask only enough follow up questions to make a report. You will need to know the family’s location or contact information; the alleged perpetrator’s name, relationship to the child and access to the child; and the type of abuse – sexual, physical, emotional or neglect.
In addition, you will need to find out the child’s feelings about returning to the home that day.
If there is no danger of the child going home to an alleged abuser, immediately make a report to CPS (1-800-252-5400) or the school’s law enforcement officer. The earlier the report is called in, the better.
If the child may go home that afternoon or evening to an alleged abuser, call your school’s law enforcement personnel immediately. They can make decisions regarding the child’s immediate safety and can expedite the reporting process. You will still need to make a report to CPS (1-800-252-5400).
If the incident occurred on school property, call both CPS and the school’s law enforcement officer. A report must be made to the law enforcement agency assigned to your school immediately.
No. The child should only have to tell their story to one person at the school – YOU! Do not allow multiple school personnel to interview the child.
Regardless of who the abuser is, you should not notify the child’s parents of the child’s disclosure or tell them that a report was made. Schools should never contact parents regarding suspicions, even if CPS or law enforcement is detaining the child. Let the assigned investigator contact the parents or the child might be in danger and the case could be seriously compromised.
Child abuse can happen to any child from any kind of family. When children are abused it is never the child’s fault. Nobody has the right to hurt a child or do something to a child that makes them feel uncomfortable.
If somebody is hurting you or doing something to you that does not feel right you should trust your gut and tell someone. If it does not feel okay to you then it probably is not right and it needs to stop.
You need to tell an adult that you trust. Good people to tell are parents, teachers, counselors, people from church, or a friend’s parents. If the person you tell does not believe you or does not change anything to make you safe then you should tell someone else who you trust. You can also call the hotline yourself. The number is 1-800-252-5400 and they will help you.
Someone will talk with you or bring you to the Children’s Advocacy Center where you can talk about what has happened to you. People will also talk with your parents to see if they will be able to keep you safe. Everyone wants children to be at home with their family in a safe place and that will always be what they try to do. If it is not safe for you to go home, then the adults will figure out another way for you to remain safe while they work with your family to help them keep you safe.
The most important reason to tell is because it is not okay for kids to be hurt and the only way to stop it is to tell someone who can help. It can be frightening to tell a secret like this but adults who hurt children need to get help so they can learn not to hurt children.
A: The policy of the Fort Bend Children’s Advocacy Center is that parents are not allowed in the interview room during the interview. The main reason for this is that the interview must be “legally defensible.” The interviewer is responsible for everything that happens in the interview and has been trained on how to ask questions that will stand up in court. If a parent is in the interview room with the child, an attorney may argue that the parent was cueing the child on how to answer the interviewer’s questions. Additionally, children will try to avoid answering questions when parents are present.
A: That is up to the discretion of law enforcement and/or CPS. The interview is considered to be the child’s official statement, and therefore is considered evidence. Because of its purpose, investigators usually do not show the interviews. Also, even though parents think they want to view their child’s interview, its may be emotionally difficult for a parent to see their child give the details.
A: Yes. Following the interview, team members (i.e. CAC staff, Children’s Protective Services, Law Enforcement, etc.) will meet with you to discuss the interview in general and explain what will happen next. At that time, a CAC staff member will discuss with you what services may be available for your child. Please feel free to bring up any questions or concerns you have so that they can be addressed.
A: That depends on your child. Typically, the younger the child, the shorter the interview, but it is very difficult to estimate how long an interview will last. Remember, the CAC is here to make this experience as easy as possible for your child.
A: Absolutely not. The purpose of a Children’s Advocacy Center is to provide a neutral, child-friendly place for a child to tell their story. Our Forensic Interviewers undergo extensive training on how to interview in a gentle, age-appropriate, non-leading manner. Your child will set the pace and will be able to answer questions as they feel comfortable.
A: No. Our forensic interviewers are trained to use the language of the child, and to also let the child talk to them about what they know and about what happened to the child without giving them knowledge they did not previously have. We do provide safety education to children regarding touching when appropriate.
A: Every case is different. However, the recorded interview cannot be used in a trial in lieu of a child’s testimony. Under the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution, the defendant has a right to confront his accuser. If criminal charges are filed, Fort Bend has a Children’s Court Services program that would help prepare you, your child, and your family for that experience.
Therapy is very helpful for children who have been abused. When team members meet with you following the interview, they will discuss with you what therapy options are recommended, and what appropriate therapy services are available. It is usually very helpful for a child who has been abused to meet with a therapist regarding the feelings associated with their experiences.
No, we are not Children’s Protective Services. The Children’s Advocacy Center is a program of Child Advocates of Fort Bend, a not-for-profit that advocates for children who have been abused. The Children’s Advocacy Center provides services to CPS (at no charge) which include high quality, legally defensible forensic interviews. The Children’s Advocacy Center also aids CPS in the coordination of the investigation with local law enforcement agencies and the District Attorney’s Office.
Your report is confidential, and it is not subject to public release under the Open Records Act. The law provides for immunity from civil or criminal liability for innocent persons who report even unfounded suspicions, as long as your report is made in good faith. Your identity is kept confidential.
If you have reason to suspect abuse, but are not positive, make the report. If you have any doubts about whether or not it is abuse, call the hotline. They can advise you on whether the signs you have observed are abuse.
Information helpful to have on hand when filing an abuse report (if known) includes: