Madera County Child Advocacy Center (CAC)

Madera County Child Advocacy Center’s priority is to ensure that your visit is a safe and comfortable experience for you and your child.

Madera County Child Forensic Interview Team (CFIT)

The team consists of Law Enforcement Officers, Deputy District Attorneys, Social Workers, Victim Services Center Advocates, Child Advocacy Center personnel, and Child Forensic Interviewers. All of these professionals are sensitive to the difficult and confusing time that you and your child may be experiencing. The Child Advocacy Center (CAC) personnel will provide support to the team by coordinating the Child Forensic Interviews and will host the children and families during their time at the CAC. The Social Worker must assess the safety and protection of your child. The Forensic Interviewer will ask your child questions and be part of the team discussion following the interview. The Law Enforcement Officer is from the location where the alleged incident occurred, and along with the Deputy District Attorney will determine if a crime has been committed and what other investigative steps must be taken. Victim Services Center Advocate will inform you of your rights as a crime victim and be your link to the court system, if and when criminal action is taken. The team’s overall goal is to complete the investigation in a child friendly, timely, and professional manner.

The CFIT consists of Madera County Sheriff’s Office, City of Madera Police Department, Chowchilla Police Department, District Attorney’s Office, Madera County Department of Probation, Social Services, Public Health, Behavioral Health, and CAPMC Child Advocacy Center and Victim Services.

CFIT Mission Statement

The Child Forensic Interview Team (CFIT) exists to reduce the ongoing trauma for children who are alleged victims of sexual abuse by providing evidence-based best practices outlined in the National Children’s Alliance service standards for Child Advocacy Centers with accredited memberships.

CFIT Goals

The goals of the CFIT are to:

  1. Reduce the number of interviews to which the child is subjected to.
  2. Minimize the number of persons who interview the child.
  3. Improve the quality and quantity of information obtained in the interview.
  4. Shorten the time period between investigation and legal disposition of child sexual abuse cases.
  5. Provide immediate intervention for the purpose of protection, support services, and referrals for the child and family.
  6. Provide immediate crisis intervention by trained professionals available at all times through our crisis hotline 1-800-355-8989.

What is a Child Forensic Interview?

A Child Forensic Interview is a single session, recorded interview designed to elicit a child’s unique information when there are concerns of possible abuse or when the child has witnessed violence against another person. The interviews are conducted in a child-oriented room where the child can have a sense of safety and comfort (e.g. Madera County Child Advocacy Center). A Child Forensic Interview is an effective way to prevent further trauma to the victim of suspected child abuse, an efficient way to communicate important details, and facilitate professionals working collaboratively.

The goal of a Child Forensic Interview is to obtain a statement from a child, in a developmentally sensitive, unbiased and fact-finding manner, that will support accurate and fair decision-making in the criminal justice process. The agencies involved in interviewing child victims of sexual assault in Madera County attempt to adhere to the best practices among interviewers. In order to accomplish this, member agencies are frequently reviewing their practices in light of new and evolving techniques to facilitate interviews.

Madera County CAC complies with the standards set forth by the National Children’s Alliance using the Ten Step Investigative Interview Protocol developed by Thomas D. Lyon, J.D., Ph.D. 2005 (version 2) or updated versions as they become available. This procedure has been organized into the pre-interview conference and five interview phases.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Child Forensic Interview

You might tell your child “You and I are going to the Madera County Child Advocacy Center. It is a place where kids go to talk about themselves. There will be a person there who talks to lots of kids and they will be talking to you, too. You are not in any trouble and it’s vey important that you speak the truth.”

Your child will talk to a Child Forensic Interviewer. The interviewer has special training and experience in talking with children. The interviewer’s goal is to make your child as comfortable as possible while gathering necessary information for the investigation. Questions are asked in a non-threatening and non-leading manner. The interviewer moves at a pace that is comfortable for your child and never forces a child to talk to them.

It is important for the interviewer to talk with your child alone. If something abusive has happened to your child, it might be difficult for your child to talk about this in front of you. The team members have the responsibility of observing, assessing, and investigating the allegations. The team’s focus must be on your child. Therefore, you are not permitted to observe the interview. You are encouraged to bring a friend or support person, or speak to a Victim Advocate to help you while the interview is taking place.

Digital recording investigative interviews is a tool which provides accurate and thorough documentation of what occurs during the interview. The DVD is the property of the Madera County District Attorney’s Office and can only be released by court order.

At the end of the interview the detective will inform you about what will happen next. All team members who are present during the interview will be available to speak with you and answer any questions you may have. Lastly, when appropriate the CAC will administer a survey for feedback on your experience and check-in with you regarding any questions you may have before leaving the center.

The Madera County CAC is acknowledged by the National Children’s Alliance (NCA) Board of Directors as an NCA Accredited Child Advocacy Center. As the accrediting body for Children’s Advocacy Centers, NCA ensures that all children across the U.S. served by CAC’s receive consistent, evidence-based services that help them heal from abuse.

Child Abuse Prevention

Education is the best form of prevention. Parents should not only talk to their children about not talking to strangers but also teach children that people they trust could also harm them such as family members, family friends, or acquaintances. It is not uncommon for children of sexual abuse to be assaulted by a known person.

  1. Teach your children that they own their body and that no one should ever touch them inappropriately.
  2. Explain to your children that even if its someone they know, if their touch makes them feel uncomfortable they can say NO.
  3. Reassure your children that they can come to you and tell you openly if something has happened to them regardless of who the person is. Take their concerns seriously.
  4. Do not teach your children to have harmful secrets about you or the family.
  5. Assist your children with protecting their online accounts by limiting who can view their information.
  6. Tell your children to report any inappropriate sexual images they see or receive online.
  7. Show interest in your children’s day-to-day lives, get to know the people in their lives.
  8. Teach your children about boundaries and how to talk about their bodies.

A special thank you to Berry Development for generously waiving the rental cost of the Madera County CAC since 2019. Through this donation, the Madera County CAC is able to provide a child-focused setting designed to provide a safe, comfortable and neutral place where forensic interviews and other CAC services can be appropriately provided for children and families.