Caregiver Resources


Safe Harbor Child Advocacy Center (CAC) is a place where children, caregivers, and members of local child abuse response teams come together for the safety and well-being of children. Learning that your child has been abused or may have been abused can leave you feeling anxious and overwhelmed. Safe Harbor was created to help children and caregivers through the process. Safe Harbor provides a safe, child-focused environment in which children can be interviewed, and caregivers can be connected to needed resources and services. Here is what you can expect during your visit:


What To Expect

You will be greeted by a CAC staff member who will check you and your child in and show you to a child-friendly waiting area where your child can play, read, or watch TV while you wait to meet the interviewer.

The interviewer will come out to meet you and your child and briefly talk with you about the interview process. If you or your child prefer, the interviewer will then show you the interview room where your child will be interviewed.

Once prepared, the interviewer will accompany your child to the interview room to complete the interview.

The Child & Family Advocate will meet with you to learn more about you as a caregiver and provide a few resource materials that you can review while your child is being interviewed.

Following the interview, the interviewer will return your child to the waiting area.

A forensic nurse will visit with you next and explain the services available to your child while at the CAC.

MDT members will meet with you (outside the presence of the child), explain next steps, and answer any questions you may have.

The Child & Family Advocate will meet with you again to discuss services and resources available to your child and family.

The Child & Family Advocate will accompany you to the lobby – this concludes your visit to the CAC.


The days leading up to the interview can be worrisome for your child. Children can often be put at ease if they know what to expect. It is helpful to inform your child that someone wishes to talk with them  about what was reported. Tell them that the CAC is a safe and comfortable place, encourage a good night’s rest, and tell your child that it’s ok to talk to the interviewer about anything. It is important to reassure your child and give them permission to talk freely; however, it is equally important not to rehearse with your child or tell your child what to say.

Interviews generally last between 20 and 60 minutes. The average length of a visit to Safe Harbor is two hours.

Interviewers are specially trained professionals with knowledge about child development, the dynamics of abuse, and interviewing children of all ages and abilities.

Yes. All interviews conducted at the CAC are recorded. Following an interview, the interview recordings are turned over to the law enforcement and/or Child Protective Services investigators assigned to the case.

Yes. The Child & Family Advocate (CFA) will meet with you at the beginning of the interview. The CFA will guide you through a Family Needs Assessment to complete during your child’s interview. Completing this form will assist the CFA with connecting you to needed resources and services for you and your child. Additionally, the CFA will provide you with a copy of the CAC’s Caregiver Toolkit which you may read while you are waiting or at another time, as this is yours to keep. We understand that waiting for your child may be difficult; the CFA is available to support you. You may also request to bring one support person with you.

No. It is important for the interviewer to talk with your child alone. If something abusive has happened to your child, it might initially be difficult for your child to talk about this in front of you. If your child discloses incidents of abuse, it might be upsetting to you. The multidisciplinary team (MDT) members have the responsibility of observing, assessing, and investigating the allegations. The MDT’s focus must be on your child. Therefore, you are not permitted to observe the interview.

MDT stands for Multidisciplinary Team. Virginia uses a multidisciplinary team (MDT) approach to respond to allegations of child abuse and neglect. The MDT’s overall goal is to complete the investigation in a child friendly, timely, and professional manner. Virginia’s MDTs include (at a minimum) professionals from the Department of Social Services, the child advocacy center (CAC), local law enforcement, the local Commonwealth’s  Attorney’s Office, Mary Washington Healthcare, and Rappahannock Area Community Services Board. 


The MDT consists of social workers, detectives, prosecutors, forensic interviewers, advocates, and medical and mental health professionals. All of these professionals are sensitive to the difficult and confusing time that you and your child may be experiencing. The MDT response is a collaborative effort which allows these professionals to better coordinate services for you and your family while your child’s allegation of abuse is under investigation. Each member has different responsibilities. The social worker from the Department of Social Services must assess the safety and protection of your child. The detective is from the location where the alleged incident occurred, and along with the prosecutor will determine if a crime has been committed and what other investigative steps must be taken. The forensic interviewer will conduct an interview with your child at the request of one of the MDT members. Advocates will assist you and your family throughout the process and will work to connect you and your family with needed resources and services. Medical professionals and mental health professionals will attend to the physical, emotional, and psychological needs of your child upon referral.

Following the interview, the interviewer will return your child to the waiting area. Members of the MDT will meet with you. The first member to meet with you will be the forensic nurse who will discuss any recommended medical services, and answer questions you may have. After that, other members of the MDT (investigators) will provide general information about the interview, will explain next steps, and answer any questions you may have. Then, the Child & Family Advocate (CFA) will meet with you to discuss services and resources available to your child and family. The CFA will provide you with an information packet, ask you to complete any paperwork needed to make referrals for services that your child or family may need, discuss plans for follow up contact with you, and provide you with a brief survey so we can learn about your experience at the CAC. Next, the CFA will accompany you to the lobby and this will conclude your visit to the CAC.

The need for a medical evaluation is decided by the circumstances of each individual case. If a medical evaluation is necessary or requested, we work with forensic nurses with expertise and experience in child abuse to provide that evaluation at the CAC. If your child needs a medical evaluation, explain to your child that this is to make sure that their  body is healthy. Assure your child that this evaluation will not hurt and that the medical professional will tell your child everything that they  will be doing prior to the evaluation. If a medical evaluation is not requested by the MDT, you may request a medical evaluation while meeting with the MDT or by contacting the Child & Family Advocate at the CAC.

You may contact the Department of Social Services investigator or the Law Enforcement Officer to ask about the status of your child’s case.

Abused children often do not feel as good about themselves as do non-abused children. Your child may also feel frustration, anger, guilt, fear, and helplessness. Caregivers and other family members also need support and understanding. Professional, evidence-based counseling can help you and your child through this stressful time. If you are interested in receiving counseling, please contact the Child & Family Advocate for an assessment referral. The following concerns might need to be addressed through counseling by a mental health professional: if your child is upset or withdrawn for unknown reasons or if your child is experiencing feelings of depression or anxiety over an extended period of time.

Like abused children, caregivers and other family members often feel a wide range of emotions in response to learning about allegations of abuse and may need support and understanding. In order to effectively support the child, the caregiver and other family members may need to seek counseling. A counselor can help caregivers and other family members work through their feelings and emotions related to the abuse and teach healthy coping and self-care techniques. Speak to the Child & Family Advocate (CFA) at the CAC to learn about counseling and other support services that may be available for you and your family.

The Child & Family Advocate (CFA) at the CAC will speak with you about resources and services that may be available to you and your family during your visit to the CAC and later during a follow up call. Additionally, the CFA will provide you with their  business card, so you may contact them if you need further assistance following your visit.

caregiver toolkit

Caregiver Toolkit

The Caregiver’s Toolkit includes information about child abuse and neglect, ways to support your child and information about agencies that provide social, medical, and behavioral health services.

Caregiver Resources

Here you will find contact information for organizations that can assist caregivers with social and behavioral health services, safety, and other essential needs.

Activites for Children and Families

My Feelings Activity Book

My Safety Activity Book

My Self-Care Activity Book

My Self-Care Activity Book

Do you suspect child abuse?

Do you suspect child abuse?

If so, call Child Protective Services at 804-786-8536.
You are not required to give your name. You may also file a report with your local law enforcement office.