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Frequently Asked Questions - ADULTS



What is Wynona's House?

Wynona’s House is the Child Advocacy Center for Essex County.  Working as a team with Essex County Prosecutors Office (ECPO), State of New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS), and the Metro Regional Diagnostic and Treatment Center (RDTC), the specially-trained professionals bring all the services needed under one child-friendly roof for children and their non-offending family members following allegations of child abuse.


What are your hours of operation

We are open 9am-5pm, Monday through Friday.


How do I contact Wynona's House?

If you have received a referral for services at Wynona’s House, you can reach us at 973-753-1110.  Our address is 185 Washington Street, Newark, NJ 07102.  Directions  Please click SPEAKER if you want to schedule a speaker.


Will it cost anything?

Wynona’s House will not cost you anything.  We receive support from governmental and private agencies as well as private individuals (DONATE NOW).  We work with you to make choices for follow-up medical and therapy services that will accept your existing medical insurance or help you apply for state assistance if you are eligible.  Many services are paid for by DYFS if your family is receiving services from them.


I need transportation to the center. Can you help?

Yes. We are easily accessible by public transportation, the Newark city subway stops at our door, and bus lines stop nearby. We also have an arrangement with a car service company to assist you.  When you are being scheduled for your forensic interview, you will be asked if you need help with transportation.


I have other children and don't have childcare for when I'm at the center. Can you help?

If you have more than one child, first try to arrange childcare for your other child/children.  If you are not able to arrange childcare, it is helpful if you bring another adult with you to help watch your children while you are speaking with members of the team.  There will be times when you will be out of the room speaking with professionals about the case and your child will be in the room with our playroom supervisor or other staff person.  As much as possible, we like children to have people they know around them at all times during these stressful experiences.  If you are unable to bring another adult with you, please tell us that when we speak on the phone.


How long does it take when we come to the center?

We attempt to get all information as quickly as possible, but please plan on spending 2-3 hours though it could be less.  Make sure your child has eaten before you come.


What should I expect when I go to the center?

Wynona’s House exists to provide child-sensitive investigation, prosecution, medical and mental health services and advocacy when there have been allegations of child abuse.  You can expect to receive sensitive services for your child and non-offending family members.  The center is decorated in such a way as to be pleasing and welcoming to your child and all efforts are made to help children feel comfortable and relaxed as they participate in the investigation.


What should I do to prepare my child to come to the center?

The interview process can last up to 2 or 3 hours, depending on the complexity of the case, the questions you or your child have, and many other factors.  Thus, it is useful to make sure that your child has had a good meal before coming.  If your child asks you why they have to go, please tell them that there are experts there to talk with children and that Wynona’s House is a place to tell the truth.

 

Many parents wonder if they should talk or not talk to their children about the abuse. We prefer that you NOT question your child about what happened. You have already reported the abuse to the authorities and those professionals are responsible for asking your child the questions needed to establish a case. However, if your child seems to want to talk about it, please listen with respect and kindness as they tell their story. Do not pry for details as that can taint the investigation.


What can I as a parent do to help my child?

Many parents worry that if their child has been the victim of abuse that they will be damaged for the rest of their life.  What seems to be true more of the time is that if children receive appropriate support and are believed by the people closest to them, they tend to recover fully from the abuse they suffered.  Thus, your role as parent is extremely important.


I don't know who to believe. Do children ever lie about this? I am financially dependent on the abuser.

Most times, children do not lie about or make up abuse, contrary to many people’s beliefs.  While children are known to have active imaginations, young children especially do not have a reference point for sexual behavior.  They are thus unable to make up details about sexual abuse.  If you are struggling to believe your child because of any factor, please seek out the assistance of a professional knowledgeable about child sexual abuse.  Your support of your child is the most important factor in their healing; please protect them from your doubts and ambivalence.

 

Children, not having the ability to fully understand what happened to them, may make up stories that you know are not true.  For example, one child who was being abused by his grandfather told his mother that he didn’t want to go to grandpa’s house because there were spiders in the basement.  Of course there were no spiders, but it was the child’s way of indicating he didn’t want to go to his house.  If you suspect something has happened to your child, you can call us (973) 926-3111 or contact the state central hotline 1-877-NJ ABUSE to report it.


How will I know if my child has been abused?

Usually adults become aware of abuse because the child tells them it happened, their moods or other behaviors change, such as demonstrating behaviors  that indicate premature exposure to sexual behavior.  There are many signs and symptoms, so it is helpful to speak with a professional who understands the dynamics of abuse, especially if you notice a sudden unexplained change in behavior, mood or attitude.


What happens in the interview with my child?

We help the child relax and feel comfortable, and then seek information through a structured protocol to understand what happened to the child.  The child is told to always tell the truth.


Can I be in the interview with my child?

Usually only the forensic interviewer is allowed to be with the child during the interview process.  The interview is a part of the criminal investigation.  Because of that, it has to follow very specific protocol or the case will be subject to attacks by the defense attorney.  The presence of anyone other than the child and the interviewer is likely to taint the interview by raising the suggestion that someone close to the child is unduly influencing the child, and thus contaminate the case.  It is important that your child feel free to openly talk about the abuse without concern that what they may be saying is embarrassing or emotionally painful to you.  If you were present, you would become a witness to the case and could be called upon to testify, possibly against the interests of your child.


Am I allowed to be in the observation room or to view the videotape?

Because the forensic interview and videotape are part of a criminal investigation,  no one other than individuals involved in the investigation are allowed access to these tapes.  If you were present or had access to the videotape, you may become a witness to the case and could be called upon to testify, possibly against the interests of your child.  Following the interview a staff person from ECPO will be available to answer your questions concerning the interview.


Who is interviewing my child?

Our primary interviewer is named Arlin and she is a former police detective with the Newark Police Department.  She has attended numerous trainings on interviewing children and in addition, speaks both English and Spanish.  When she is not available, all of the investigators who are on site for ECPO are trained to conduct the interviews as well.


Will anyone else need to speak with my child?

While we conduct the Forensic Videotaped Interview with all intentions to minimize the number of times your child has to tell their story, depending on the way each case unfolds, it may be necessary for someone else to speak with your child. We do make the videotape available to others as they become involved in your child’s case; however, as the case proceeds forward it may be necessary to speak with someone else.


What happens after the Forensic Videotaped Interview?

Because each case is different, there is not one answer to that question.  In an active case, typically we make referrals to RDTC for the child to have a medical and mental health evaluation.  These procedures are not only to further investigate if there is evidence of abuse, but to also check out the medical and mental health status of your child, and to provide reassurance to you and your child.   It can be highly reassuring to a child to learn from their doctor that their body is still OK even after sexual abuse.  The mental health evaluation enables the team to make recommendations for follow-up treatment that may help in your child’s healing and recovery.

 

Legally, if the investigation has uncovered sufficient evidence to indicate that a crime has been committed, it is likely that there will be charges filed against the alleged perpetrator and the case will move forward.  If there is insufficient evidence, the case may remain open longer for further investigation.  If there is not evidence that a crime has been committed, the case may be closed.  DYFS has a similar investigation with its aim to determine if the child is safe from further harm.

 

Since each case is different, please speak with the individuals involved in your case for specific answers to your questions about procedures and next steps.


How long can a case stay open?

Depending on the specifics of each case, the cases stay open until a conclusion with either the prosecution or child protection systems is reached.  If the case goes forward with prosecution, it could be at least a couple of years before it goes to trial; however, many times offenders will plead guilty or plea bargain for a lesser sentence, thus the time will be shortened.  For DYFS, they remain involved as long as there is a concern about the safety of the child.


The Assistant Prosecutor said the case is going to Grand Jury. What is Grand Jury?

Grand Jury is a group of citizens who will hear the results of the investigation and make a determination if they think a crime has been committed.  If they believe a crime has been committed, an indictment will be issued.  This results in the alleged offender being charged with the crime.  The Forensic Videotaped Interview we conduct can be used as evidence in Grand Jury so the child usually doesn’t have to appear.


Will I need a lawyer?

If your child has been the victim of abuse, the state as represented by the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office will act as the attorney in your child’s case.  A crime committed on a child is actually a crime against the state.  Therefore, it is the state vs. the alleged offender.  Some families choose to have an attorney to represent their interests, and to advise and educate them about legal matters.  If your case goes to family court, DYFS advises you to get an attorney.  If you can’t afford an attorney, they will direct you to the agency that can provide you an attorney at no cost.  Finally, if you decide to pursue a civil case, you will need to hire an attorney to represent you.


Will my child have to testify in court?

If your case proceeds to the point of trial, it is likely that your child will need to testify.  Based on the Constitution, all alleged offenders have a right to face their accuser.  The prosecutor handling your child’s case will determine whether special circumstances exist that may make it possible for your child to testify outside of the defendant’s presence, or to have additional support available for your child during her or his testimony.  We will work with your child to prepare them for trial should it come to that.


Can you help my child if s/he has to testify in court?

Yes, of course.  The Assistant Prosecution assigned to the case, the Victim Witness Coordinator and the MDT Coordinator are all available to help your child prepare for court.  There are many effective court preparation methods that we’ll employ to meet the needs of your child.


I have no money for therapy. I have no medical insurance. What should I do?

If you have an open DYFS case, your therapy at the RDTC will be paid for by DYFS.  Wynona’s House has a relationship with the welfare department and can help you and your child access medical insurance as well as other support services such as food stamps, housing, and cash assistance depending on your eligibility.

 

If you have an existing insurance policy, we’ll work with you to refer you to someone paid for by your plan.

 

In addition, there are funds with the State of New Jersey Victims of Crime Compensation Board (VCCB) to help with the costs associated with recovery from crime.  You will be encouraged to complete this paperwork to determine if you are eligible for these funds if it applies to you.


How much help can I get from the New Jersey Victims of Crime Compensation Board?

If you qualify, these are some of the expenses that can be paid.

 

Psychological counseling
Loss of support or earnings
Hospital, physician and physical therapy
Nursing care
Care of child or dependent
Funeral expenses up to $5,000
Emergency Relocation Costs
Attorney fees for assistance in filing a claim and representing you in the appeal process

 

Follow the link for more information on VCCB http://www.vccb.org/

 

I’m having issues at my job because I’m missing so much work dealing with all the appointments.  Can you help?

Please contact a staff person involved in your case and they will write you a letter for your employer.  In many cases that is enough to satisfy an organization, however, it requires that you disclose that you’re involved in a legal matter at Wynona’s House.  We’ll work with you to word it as sensitively as possible.

 

Since the abuser of my child was the breadwinner in the family, I have no money and am at risk of being evicted from my apartment. Can you help me?

There are two options available.  First, we can help you get established with welfare to get food stamps, housing assistance, health care, etc., depending on your eligibility.  (Click this welfare link for more information).  Second, VCCB is available to help with these types of situation as well.  Please link to their webpage to learn more about the assistance they are able to provide.


Will this abuse affect my child? Will s/he be ruined forever?

Being a victim of child abuse is a very challenging thing for children, and its effects should not be minimized.  However, many studies have repeatedly shown that the single most important factor in children’s healing is that they receive love and support and are BELIEVED about the abuse by those people closest to them, their family.  Your job as parent is critical in your child’s healing.

 

If you have any questions about whether your child is telling the truth, please find a trusted adult trained in the dynamics of child abuse.  Talk over your confusion and doubts with them – do not let your child see it.

 

Many children, after having an abuse experience that has been handled well by the family, grow up to be happy, healthy, normal adults.  Because there are many factors that will determine how your child will react, it is impossible to determine your child’s exact response.  However, for some children, there may be some initial regression to earlier stages of development.  For example, if your child has recently been potty trained and then suffers abuse, s/he may begin wetting the bed again.  In addition, some children may have a little more difficult time with developmental transitions.  So, you may experience them reverting to earlier stages during transitions for a while until they gain their footing again.  Developmental transitions are things like going to school, first date, getting married, first sexual experience, going to college, having their first child, etc.  They need extra love and support, perhaps reassurance that they are OK and should be fine again after some special loving.  Again, these patterns are not true for all children, but these are things we typically see.


Am I a bad parent because I didn't see this coming?

Many parents wonder that deep down inside when their child suffers from abuse.  You may in retrospect rethink things that have happened and kick yourself for not taking action or stopping something from happening.  You may see clues when you look back.  It would be impossible to not go through some second-guessing.  However, if you can in good conscience state that you didn’t know it was happening and therefore couldn’t have prevented it, remember that you are not responsible for the abusive actions of another.  The abuser must be held accountable for his or her own actions. It is suggested that you focus your attention on helping your child to recover and not on your guilt.  Your guilt will in no way help your child, but in fact diverts attention from feeling supported and helped by you.  If you still can’t get control of your guilt, please seek out a professional to help you come to terms with this.