Child abuse centers are designed to make the process of reporting child abuse as simple and easy on the child as possible. These facilities contain all the services and staff necessary to handle cases of child abuse and neglect. The child's medical evaluation and forensic interview are conducted here. Mental health counseling and legal counseling are also provided to the victim and his or her family at a child abuse center.
The first thing that happens at a child abuse center is that concerns are heard about instances of suspected child abuse. The initial report is usually taken over the phone from a hotline. Once the report is filed, U.S. Social Services will decide whether an investigation is warranted based on state laws. The investigation will occur within 24 hours in cases of abuse or 72 hours in cases of neglect and typically includes interviews with people close to the child and a visit to the home and school environments.
Medical evaluations are often conducted at a child abuse center. Staff members are specially trained to treat and evaluate victims of child abuse. The goal of these centers is to make the process as painless and simple as possible for the child, who is already in distress. The medical team has procedures in place to make sure the child requires only one medical exam. The doctors and nurses record and treat injuries from physical or sexual abuse while maintaining a comfortable environment for the child.
Forensic interviews are made as simple as possible for the child at a child abuse center. It is necessary to interview the victim of abuse for legal purposes, but the staff at these centers make sure not to overwhelm the child. They understand that recounting the instance of abuse is very difficult, so they make sure the child is interviewed and recorded only once. The interviews are conducted in a safe, neutral environment with the child's comfort in mind.
One of the most important services provided by the child abuse center is mental health treatment. The first concern is the child, who is often traumatized by the abuse. Trained child psychologists are on hand to help children process and heal from their abuse. Therapy is also made available to the families affected by child abuse. Whether the abuse was perpetrated by a family member or not, the entire family is affected by an instance of child abuse.
Some centers offer an education program for children and their families about the legal process they will be involved in. These programs help children understand what will be expected of them in court. Owing to the high-stress nature of these proceedings, the staff may also teach stress-reduction activities to the children to help them before and during hearings. The parents or guardians are also taught how to best support the child during the coming months.