Sunflower House, A Child Abuse Prevention Center, is a place for children to be interviewed after a report of child abuse has been made. We work with the police and child protective service social workers to talk with children in our safe and child-centered location.
Do the best we can to find out what happened.
Make the investigation process as comfortable as possible for both you and your child.
Explain the child protection and legal systems.
Assist with scheduling your child for a thorough, specialized medical evaluation.
Children are referred to Sunflower House when allegations of sexual or physical abuse have been made. Our specially trained, forensic interviewers interview children in rooms that are wired to electronically record the child’s statement. Often the recorded interview is used in further investigation or for prosecution in a court of law. Referrals are accepted from law enforcement agencies or the Department for Children and Families (DCF).
Many times children need a comprehensive medical evaluation. Sunflower House staff will assist families in scheduling these exams with pediatricians specifically trained in child sexual and physical abuse.
After forensic interviews, children are surprised with the opportunity to choose a stuffed animal, book or toy from our Bear Showcase. Each is donated to Sunflower House by community members and supporters. Please visit our wish list if you’d like to donate an item.
Free informational booklet
Caring for Kids, What Parents Need to Know About Sexual Abuse
Before the interview
Please write down and bring with you any concerns you have about your child. You know your child best and your information is important to us. Before your appointment at Sunflower House, please do not discuss the abuse allegations with your child. If your child wants to talk, permit him or her to discuss it. At this time, however, it is best if you do not bring it up yourself. Tell them that you honestly don’t know exactly what will be asked but that you have every confidence in them that they’ll be honest and that the person will make them feel comfortable during the talk. Assure them that this person is a child-friendly person whose job it is to talk to kids about difficult things. Tell them you want him/her to answer all the questions the best they can and to tell the truth.
Give the child permission to talk about what they have disclosed. Be general in what you tell the child (i.e. “It’s ok to tell the interviewer what you told me (or whomever they told) happened to you when you were …………). Assure them that they are not in any trouble.
Assure your child that you will be nearby during the interview. Let your child know it is alright to talk to the people at Sunflower House and that other kids come to Sunflower House to talk and have a medical exam also.
Sunflower House is a safe place where your child will meet with a social worker who has talked with many children and teenagers. Our “house” is a child-centered place with toys, books, play tables, an aquarium and TV room. Before the interview, the team members (DCF, law enforcement, forensic interviewer, family advocate and medical staff) meet briefly. The family advocate will then show you the interview room, talk about your child’s visit, and answer your questions about the process. This is a good time to tell the family advocate about your child’s feelings, emotional/mental development, language skills, and special needs. Then interviewer will then come to the lobby, introduce herself to you and your child and then take your child to the interview room to begin the interview. The length of the interview just depends on each child’s statements, needs, and specific circumstances.
During the interview, the interviewer will spend time getting to know your child and asking non-leading questions. This interview will be recorded on DVD in order to preserve your child’s statement. Only one person will interview your child. A social worker, a detective and our medical staff observe the interview from another room.
After your child’s interview begins, the Sunflower House Family Advocate meets with you. Once the interview is completed, the interviewer, family advocate, detective, DCF social worker, and medical staff then meet briefly. The detective and DCF social worker will then meet with you. They will tell you what they have learned and answer questions about what will happen next. Many times, they will need to ask you questions as well. Your child will remain in the lobby while you meet with the detective and social worker.
Testimonials from previous Sunflower House clients:
“I am very thankful this center exists for the children facing this it goes a long way in rebuilding the trust and safe boundaries that have been broken for them. I’m amazed at how at ease I felt through this terrible process.”
“I’m thankful that places like this are here to help in a situation like the one we have right now. My kids are safe now.”
“Sunflower House staff was very professional, personable and kind. They made my children feel comfortable and safe. Thank you for your support and compassion.”
The Family Advocate at Sunflower House is available to meet with each child’s non-offending caregiver(s) to equip the family with the tools and knowledge needed to best support, understand, and protect the child. The Family Advocate will help caregivers learn how to access specialized resources to help resolve issues related to the abuse their child has experienced. The Family Advocate also provides referral information to other professionals and members of the community.
Your child will benefit from a specialized medical evaluation. Because children often delay disclosing abusive events for weeks or even months, the medical assessment is not considered an emergency procedure in most instances. Sunflower House believes that a specialized child abuse medical evaluation is beneficial for the child, the investigation process, and the prosecution of child abuse cases.
A specialized child abuse medical evaluation:
- Assesses your child’s overall physical, emotional, and developmental health
- Collects any physical evidence of abuse
- Identifies injury and/or disease to be treated
- Helps restore a child’s sense of well-being
- Provides a permanent record of the specialized medical evaluation for investigators during the investigation process
The key to a thorough medical evaluation is the choice of examiner. A pediatrician or physician assistant specifically trained in the evaluation of child abuse will offer the best service to the child victim, the family and the investigators. It is recommended that a child who discloses abuse be seen by a health care provider who specializes in child abuse evaluations. Taking your child to the local emergency department or a primary care physician may result in inadequate evaluation requiring referral to the child abuse specialist and making it necessary to do a another exam.
The primary goal of the medical examination is to assess your child’s overall state of health – physically, emotionally, and developmentally – and to reassure your child about what has happened to his or her body. Besides looking for any signs of abuse, the examiner will provide your child with a complete physical exam, much like a school or well-baby checkup.
When sexual abuse is the concern, a special examination of your child’s genital area will be included. If there is concern about sexually transmitted disease, swabs of the genital area will be obtained. If there is evidence of abuse present, the examiner will fully document this for the investigators. When additional testing is necessary, this will be explained to both you and your child. In the event that a medical condition unrelated to the abuse is identified, the examiner will assist you in arranging further follow-up, if needed. If laboratory testing is completed, the nurse will call you when he/she receives the results.
In most cases, the examiner will take pictures of your child during the medical evaluation. The examiner will explain the purpose of these pictures to you and your child. In all cases, the pictures are kept private and only the examiner has access to them.
The examination is thorough but not traumatic for the vast majority of children. In fact, most children and their families find an exam reassuring after experiencing an abusive event. The examiner will make every effort to make your child as comfortable as possible. You can be assured that your child will be treated with dignity and respect throughout the process.
Parents should be aware that the medical evaluation is not used as the only evidence to support or deny that abuse has occurred. A lack of medical findings does not mean that your child is not telling the truth. Most sexual abuse does not involve injury. Even when injuries do occur, children’s bodies recover remarkably quickly. The main advantage of the evaluation is that it allows a healthcare professional to assure you and your child that his/her body is healthy.
Multidisciplinary Team Approach
Sunflower House, a children’s advocacy center, was created to improve interagency communication and to coordinate our community’s efforts to best meet the needs of children and their families in our two-county area.
A multidisciplinary team is a group of professionals who represent various disciplines and act collaboratively to promote a thorough understanding of case issues and assure the most effective response possible. The purpose of an interagency collaboration is to coordinate interventions so as to reduce potential trauma to children and their families.
A comprehensive multidisciplinary team approach facilitates efficient gathering and sharing of information broadens the knowledge by which decisions are made, and enhances communication among agencies. It also benefits the child by reducing the number of interviews and interviewers, enhancing victim support and increasing timely referrals for needed services.
Johnson & Wyandotte County Multidisciplinary Team Agencies
- Bonner Springs Police Department
- Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics
- Edwardsville Police Department
- Fairway Police Department
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- Gardner Police Department
- Johnson County District Attorney’s Office
- Johnson County Mental Health Center
- Johnson County Parks and Recreation
- Johnson County Sheriff’s Department
- Kansas Bureau of Investigation
- Kansas Department for Children and Families
- Kansas City, Kansas Police Department
- KU Medical Center Department of Pediatrics
- KU Medical Center Police Department
- Lake Quivira Police Department
- Leawood Police Department
- Lenexa Police Department
- Merriam Police Department
- Mission Police Department
- Olathe Police Department
- Overland Park Police Department
- Prairie Village Police Department
- Roeland Park Police Department
- Shawnee Police Department
- Spring Hill Police Department
- Sunflower House
- University of Kansas Hospital
- Westwood Police Department
- Wyandot Center for Community Behavioral Healthcare
- Wyandotte County District Attorney’s Office
- Wyandotte County Sheriff’s Department
Child and Family Therapy
A child’s reactions to abuse will vary from mild to more serious effects. Some children show signs immediately while others may have delayed symptoms. Even if your child is not showing any symptoms at this time, it is best to let a professional therapist evaluate your child. Many parents feel that a child should just forget about the abuse and are reluctant to let the child talk about the abuse. Unfortunately, denial will not make it go away. Most children do not just forget about abuse and need help to recover from their trauma. The purpose of counseling is not to dwell on the details of the abuse, but to help your child deal with the feelings that he/she is experiencing and to help your child heal. Counseling is extremely beneficial to children because it helps the child to:
- Develop a healthy self-image
- Learn to trust again
- Identify ways to stay safe
- Find ways to feel more in control
Your child may need continued counseling after the initial therapy visit. This does not mean that your child has been affected for life. After completing treatment do not be alarmed if at a later date your child needs additional therapeutic services. At different stages of life there are different concerns with which your child may need help.
As a parent, you may also need help in dealing with your feelings. In most instances, when a child is sexually abused, all family members will be affected. If you were a victim of sexual abuse, your child’s abuse may bring back difficult memories. A therapist may be able to help you as well since your response to the abuse will play a large part in your child’s healing. In all situations, it is important to assess if the child and the family can benefit from counseling.