A Parent's Guide to Child Abuse Response in Florida
No parent wants to hear that their child was abused. When you first learn about the abuse you might not know what to do or who to call. In Florida, it is a law that any person must report child abuse to the Police and Department of Children and Families (DCF).
If you have made a report of child abuse to the Police or DCF they will visit with you about how the child was abused. Most of the time, this is done by a patrol officer or a temporary caseworker responding to the initial call. This will help them decide how to best describe the abuse to a police detective. This is called a minimal disclosure and later helps the police detective and permanent caseworker decide how they will interview the child.
Many parents and relatives of child abuse victims want the child interviewed right away. This is not always the best way to investigate a child abuse case unless the child's safety is in immediate danger. Depending on the minimal disclosure an interview may not happen for some time.
The police will contact the Department of Children and Families. A police detective or DCS caseworker will be in contact with you as soon as possible. They will arrange for your child to be interviewed at a Children's Advocacy Center or CAC. This interview is often called a forensic interview and it is a special type of interview just for children. It can only be done by specially trained police detectives and caseworkers.
Before the interview, the police detective and caseworker review the case together. The day of the interview they will talk to the parent or guardian while the child plays with the many toys at the CAC. Your child will go with the interviewer to a child-themed room and be interviewed by the police detective or caseworker. In most cases, the parent or guardian will not be with the child during the interview. This is usually the scariest part of the investigation for a parent or guardian. Not to worry, the interview team is highly trained and handles difficult situations with children and parents daily.
This interview is recorded and will become part of the case evidence. The recording is highly protected by law and will not be made public. After the interview, the caseworker and detective will visit with the parent or guardian about the interview. CAC staff and the caseworker will help the family with resources and services before they leave.
Once the investigation is completed it will be presented by the police detective and caseworker to the State Attorneys Office. If the case is filed by the State Attorney, the legal process begins. If the case is not filed by the State Attorney, the parent or guardian will be notified by the police detective or caseworker to talk about the reason the case was not filed for prosecution.