Washington State RCW 26-44-020 defines abuse and neglect as injury, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, negligent treatment or maltreatment of a child by any person under circumstances which indicate that the child’s health, welfare, and safety is harmed..
If you have a question about whether something is child abuse, it’s best to speak to a trained professional about what you’ve seen or heard by calling Child Protective Services at 1-866-ENDHARM
According to Washington State law, certain professionals are considered “mandated reporters” and they are required to report their concerns to CPS and/or the police when they believe that a child is being harmed. Mandated reporters include police, nurses, counselors, CASAs/GALs, childcare providers, teachers, and many other professionals. For a complete list, please see the Washington State Legislature website.
It’s important to remember that whether you are required by state law to report abuse or not, it is everyone’s responsibility to speak up for children when they are being harmed.
Usually a report is taken, and the case is assigned to a detective who has received specialized training in investigating these types of crimes. The case will be investigated by the law enforcement agency responsible for the location where the crime occurred. The detective investigates the possible crime by collecting information from the child, the person who is accused of the crime, as well as anyone else that may have information about what might have happened. The police may take photos or possession of items that they believe are important in the investigation of the crime. The police may also refer some children to medical services for an examination. Additionally, advocacy services are offered to children and their care providers during the investigation. When the investigation is complete the detective turns the case into the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, and it is the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office that decides whether or not to file criminal charges.
If a CPS social worker is assigned they will often begin by assessing the safety of the child by speaking with the child. They will also speak with the parents/guardians of the child, the person who is accused of harming the child, and anyone else who may have information about the care of the child. Based on the information that CPS collects, they will work with the family to ensure the on-going safety and well-being of the child.
Questions About the Child Forensic Interview
Child forensic interviews are:
- Research based Neutral and objectiveDevelopmentally appropriate/sensitiveConducted by a specially trained interviewer
- To obtain information from a child that may be helpful in a criminal investigation
- To gather reliable evidence about suspected abuse or other crimes for possible presentation in court
- To assess the safety of the child’s living arrangements
- To obtain information that will either corroborate of refute allegations or suspicions of abuse and neglect.
- To assess the need for medical treatment and psychological care
CFI’s at the Children’s Advocacy Center are digitally recorded and provided to law enforcement for their investigation.
All Forensic Interviewers at the Children’s Advocacy Center of Yakima County follow Washington State Child Interview Guidelines based on the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) investigative interview protocol.
– Your child will never be forced to talk.
– Your child will be allowed to take breaks or end the interview at any time.
Feel free to share with the detective or advocate any information that you think the interviewer should have about your child, including any language delays, conversations outside the interview, or fears about the interview.
Let your child know that other kids come to talk with the interviewer and that it is the interviewer’s job to listen to kids.
– Give your child permission to talk to the interviewer about anything that might have happened to them.
– Assure them that you will be nearby and available if they need you.
– Tell them that they are not in any trouble, and remind them of the importance to tell the truth.
You might tell your child,
“I’m going to take you to see someone who talks to kids. They talk to kids about all sorts of things that might have happened to them. You are not in trouble. It’s okay to tell anything that’s happened.”
No. Children need to be able to talk in a place that is as neutral as possible. Additionally, parents and/or guardians are often witnesses in potential legal cases and your testimony may be compromised by watching the child interview. Each interview is recorded.
The length of the interview will be shaped by your child – their attention span, their pacing, and how much they have to say. Most interviews last approximately 30 – 60 minutes. After the interview, a detective can tell you in general terms what was learned and answer questions about the investigation.
Assure your child of your love and support no matter what they said during the interview.
Tell your child that it is not their fault if something happened to them and there are people who will help them.