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2002 Jordan Institute
for Families

Vol. 8, No. 1
December 2002

Important Resources Related to Forensic Interviewing in North Carolina

A description of child forensic interviewing in North Carolina would not be complete without information about the following resources.

The CFEP

When asked about resources to assist them with investigations, experienced North Carolina child welfare workers may think of the Child Mental Health Evaluation Program (CMHEP). However, this program is being phased out, to be replaced by the Child Forensic Evaluation Program (CFEP). Although this transition is not yet complete—the CMHEP is still in operation and the CFEP is still in a pilot phase—this article will concentrate on a description of the CFEP.

The CFEP provides brief forensic evaluations for children and adolescents who are being actively investigated by child protective services (CPS) as possible victims of abuse or neglect. This program is administered through the UNC Chapel Hill-based Child Medical Evaluation Program (CMEP). CFEP services are available free of charge to departments of social services in all 100 North Carolina counties when there is an open investigative assessment. Funding of the program is handled directly by the CFEP—no local funds are involved.

The CFEP serves such a broad geographical area by certifying doctoral- and masters-level mental health professionals with specialized training in conducting abuse-focused evaluations. There are 80 or so child forensic evaluators working with the CFEP at present; efforts are underway to identify and certify additional evaluators.

Funding is provided for a brief forensic mental health evaluation of the child (up to 12 hours for one child in the family and an additional 8 hours for each additional child) as part of the investigation and case disposition. During this process, the CFEP’s child forensic examiners interview the child and others to determine whether the child has been abused or neglected, who the perpetrator might be, and the nature and extent of the abuse or neglect. The CFEP cannot be used to replace medical evaluations and interviews or to fund the examiner’s court testimony.

Although still in a pilot phase—there is only enough funding available to subsidize 100 CFEP evaluations this year—it is anticipated the CFEP will replace the CHEP within the next few years.

When preparing the CFEP’s child forensic examiners for child interviews, child welfare workers should keep their questions specific and focused on the determination of abuse or neglect. The child forensic examiner may also answer questions about the child’s safety from further abuse/neglect and possible changes needed to ensure the child’s well-being.

To access the CFEP, social workers should complete the Authorization Request for Child Forensic or Mental Health Evaluation and the form DSS 5143 and fax or mail these forms to the CMEP office. After the case is approved for funding, the form will be returned to you. You may then schedule an appointment with any CFEP-approved examiner in North Carolina. Take the authorization form and the 5143 to the provider. The completed report will be sent to you by the provider.

A list of CME and CFEP providers is available at the CMEP/CFEP office (t: 919/843-9365; f: 919/843-9368; http://www.med.unc.edu/peds/cmep/welcome.htm).

Child Advocacy Centers

CPS investigators should also know about North Carolina’s growing network of child advocacy centers (CACs). Right now there are 20 CACs in North Carolina, some of which serve large geographical areas—the Tedi Bear Center in Greenville, for example, works with 30 counties in its region. These loosely-affiliated community centers provide support and services for abused children and the agencies that serve them. Child-focused and child-friendly, these centers often contain facilities for conducting child interviews, complete with comfortable children’s furniture, toys, interviewing props, and other aids for observing and documenting interviews.

CACs provide trained, experienced forensic interviewers who can also testify effectively in court. CAC-based interviewers may be certified to conduct child forensic examinations through the CFEP.

CACs also exist to encourage a multidisciplinary review of child abuse cases. They do so by providing space where representatives from many disciplines can meet to discuss and make decisions about investigation, treatment, and prosecution of child abuse cases. CACs bring together all the professionals and agencies needed to offer comprehensive services under one roof—including CPS, law enforcement, prosecution, mental health, and the medical community. CACs produce a variety of benefits for their communities, including more coordinated, effective responses to child abuse reports, more efficient medical and mental health referrals, a reduction in the number of child victim interviews, and consistent support for child victims and their families.

Because they are community-based and designed by professionals and volunteers to meet the specific needs of the communities they serve, the services and programs offered through CACs can vary across the state. Child advocacy centers may offer facilities for conducting medical exams, educational resources and support for victims and their families, and interviewing training for social workers and other professionals.

If you are a North Carolina child welfare worker and do not know if there is a CAC serving your community, please visit <http://www.nca-online.org/states/northcarolina.html>, a listing of North Carolina’s CACs found on the web site of the National Children’s Alliance Headquarters.

References for this and other articles in this issue