Frequently asked questions

Why am I being referred to the Mayo Clinic Child and Advocacy Center?

You and your child will be visiting the Mayo Clinic Child and Family Advocacy Center because of possible child abuse. In conjunction with law enforcement or child protective services or both, your child will be interviewed by a specially trained interviewer. Your child will be medically evaluated by a health care provider with advanced training in child abuse exams. The team includes individuals from child protection, law enforcement, prosecution, medical and mental health, and victim advocacy.

What happens at the child advocacy center?

You and your child will meet a member of the team before the forensic interview. Your child will be taken to a specially equipped room to talk.

The interview will be:

  • Digitally recorded and last between 20 and 90 minutes
  • Confidential
  • Child-sensitive, nonthreatening and structured to encourage your child to talk

While your child is being interviewed, you will meet with the victim advocate, who will:

  • Assist with safety planning
  • Help you understand more about the investigation process
  • Provide you with referral information to helpful community resources

The mental health provider also will be part of this meeting and will:

  • Provide you with information about abuse, how it may affect your child and family, and what you can do to help your child, family and yourself
  • Gather information about concerns you have regarding your child's mental health, coping and behaviors
  • Provide support to you and your child during the process

After the interview, you and your child will go to an exam room to discuss medical care and concerns. Your child may have a medical exam to ensure health and well-being.

What will happen after the interview and the exam?

After the interview and exam, you will meet with the team members to discuss their involvement in the process and future steps. You will be given information about the interview, medical exam and recommendations from the team. You will receive a list of your team members, along with their contact information, and will have the opportunity to ask questions of them.

How can I prepare my child?

Do:

  • Tell your child he or she will be visiting a safe, comfortable place to speak with a person whose job it is to talk with kids and teenagers.
  • Have your child be well rested.
  • Give your child permission to talk with the interviewer and let him or her know it is OK to talk about anything.
  • Bring the child's comfort item if that would be helpful.

Don't:

  • Ask your child questions about the situation
  • Tell your child what to say
  • Promise treats or rewards to your child for talking
  • Ask why your child didn't tell sooner

What if my child starts talking to me about the situation before the interview?

Listen

  • Stay calm and neutral when talking to your child.
  • Pay close attention to your words and actions. Show interest in what your child says and do not react with shock, horror or indifference.
  • Don't offer names of possible offenders or possible acts of abuse.
  • Listen to the information, but don't ask for all the details.
  • Don't videotape or audiotape your conversation with your child.

Support

  • Allow your child to tell in his or her own way and in his or her own time.
  • Let your child know that you believe what he or she is telling you.
  • Tell your child that it is not his or her fault and that he or she is not in trouble.

What happens after our visit to the child advocacy center?

The team will follow up with you for further information and assist you with the process. You are encouraged to contact the Mayo Clinic Child and Family Advocacy Center for any follow-up appointments as needed and may contact any of your team members with questions. Child protection or law enforcement or both will continue to work with you and your child to address your needs and safety concerns.

Apr. 16, 2013