What is CARE House?

CARE HouseIf you have been accused of a sex crime involving a child in Macomb County or Oakland County, Michigan, then during a police interview or somewhere else along the way, you may have heard the phrase "CARE House" or "CARE House interview." But before we get to CARE House, you should understand that the Michigan sex crimes laws are broken-down into different "degrees." While this doesn't include all of the Michigan sex crimes, the basic ones are broken-down into four degrees of Criminal Sexual Conduct (or "CSC" for short): Criminal Sexual Conduct 1st Degree (up to LIFE in Prison); Criminal Sexual Conduct 2nd Degree (up to 15 years in Prison); Criminal Sexual Conduct 3rd Degree (up to 15 years in Prison); and Criminal Sexual Conduct 4th Degree (up to 2 years in Prison). Each separate Degree has "multiple variables" - multiple ways you can be guilty of that Degree of CSC.

RELATED: click here to visit PrainLaw's main Criminal Sexual Conduct page.
If you are accused of CSC on a minor, you are most likely facing charges of either Criminal Sexual Conduct 1st Degree (if the accusation involves sexual penetration) or Criminal Sexual Conduct 2nd Degree (if the accusation involves only sexual contact). This is because 1st and 2nd Degree CSC are the Degrees that have multiple variables for alleged acts involving children under 13. The Oakland County and Macomb County CARE House facilities are simply facilities where they forensically interview children who claim that they are the victims of acts that amount to Criminal Sexual Conduct. Most counties have a child forensic interview center, often called "Children's Advocacy Centers" (i.e. Wayne County has "Kids Talk," etc.), and " CARE House " just happens to be the name of both Oakland County and Macomb County's child forensic centers. In a practical sense, a forensic interview means an interview conducted with an eye toward using it as evidence in a criminal prosecution (actually it deals with applying scientific principles, but it's better to think of it as an interview for use in criminal prosecution). Sometimes, these interviews are referred to as "multidisciplinary interviews." Here's how a child ends up at CARE House... A child themselves, a parent, school counselor, or other guardian contacts local Police stating that they believe the child has been sexually abused. A responding officer takes the initial report, and then the case is assigned to a Detective. The Detective, in conjunction with the Prosecutor's Office, sets up a time for a guardian to bring the child to the CARE House facility in Mount Clemens forMacomb County, or Pontiac in Oakland County.
RELATED: Click here to read about Criminal Defense Attorney Brian J. Prain's most recent NOT GUILTY jury verdict, Assault With Intent to Commit CSC Involving Sexual Penetration.

Before the CARE House interview begins, a group of people from law enforcement gather at the facility. This group comprises the "multidisciplinary team," or "MDT," and it includes: the forensic interviewer who will actually interview the child (usually a licensed master social worker), the Detective (who will become the Officer in Charge or "OIC" if criminal charges are brought), an, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney from the Macomb County Prosecutor's Office or Oakland County Prosecutor's Office, a Child Protective Services worker (sometimes), interns, and others, depending on the specific case.

The whole idea behind the CARE House interview is to interview the child concerning the details as to how they say they were sexually abused in a way that comports with the State of Michigan Forensic Interviewing Protocol (set forth by the Department of Human Services). In a nutshell, the idea behind the Forensic Interviewing Protocol is to avoid an environment of suggestibility; to avoid doing things that obscure the truth or which might encourage the child to make a false accusation. Consider, for example, the difference between asking a child "Did something happen with your Uncle Joe?" versus asking "Your Uncle Joe touched your pee-pee, didn't he?" Obviously, the second question is prone to getting a false claim of Criminal Sexual Conduct out of a child who is simply inclined (or coached) to say "yes" to everything. In short, it is supposed to produce a reliable disclosure of alleged Criminal Sexual Conduct. During the meeting of the MDT before the child interview, the Forensic Interviewing Protocol requires the interviewer to examine any "alternative hypotheses" - reasons why the accusation may not be true. The ones that the MDT believes applies are checked off on a checklist, and they include: nothing happened; wrong suspect, malicious report, attention seeking, misunderstanding, word usage, witness only or exposure, hygiene/routine cleaning, and "other." Supposedly, the MDT will make an honest assessment of all of those that may apply, and must disprove those hypotheses during the interview.

However, this is not the reality of what probably happens in those little rooms behind closed-doors. Here's another interesting fact... The Michigan Forensic Interviewing Protocol for CSC cases states that: "the Governor’s Task Force on Child Abuse and Neglect supports as a best practice the videorecording of investigative forensic interviews of children at child advocacy centers or in similar settings." However, unlike Oakland County, Macomb County CARE House willfully chooses, even in this day and age, to video record these forensic interviews. In-fact, they don't even audio-record them. Quite frankly, it's wrong. As a matter-of-fact, while the child is being forensically interviewed by the social worker, the rest of the MDT watches at CARE House through closed-circuit recording. They even speak to each other via microphone during the interview ("make sure you get her to say this or that..."). That's right, they have the resources and technology to install closed-circuit recording, but they can't just simply videotape the interview so that the rest of the world can see that there is no manipulation going on in that little room. Instead of video, they produce a "transcript." What they call a "transcript" is an alleged document typed by people who are NOT certified transcriptionists, which supposedly states what the interviewer and the child allegedly said. It's the same thing as a cop quoting what a witness allegedly says in their police report. Does anyone see the potential for more manipulation here? You should.

What is even worse is that, if they decide to pursue charges against you as a result of whatever happened in that little room behind closed-doors, manipulation or not, is that you and your Criminal Sexual Conduct Defense Attorney won't be getting a clear-cut version of this so-called "transcript" of the dialogue between child and interviewer. Instead, you and your Defense Attorney will receive one transcript that is supposedly all of the questions asked, and another transcript that is supposedly all of the answers, in sequential order. One problem with this is that sometimes there are two questions and one answer, or one question and two answers. In a word, it's a nightmare to try to piece together the exact dialogue. It almost seems like they do it on purpose. Hmm...

At the conclusion of the CARE House interview, the parent or guardian, as well as the interviewer, sign a form called "Consent for Sharing of Information," which allows CARE House to share the information with the Prosecutor's Office for prosecution, law enforcement, Children's Protective Services, counselors, medical personnel, and others as they see fit to serve their purposes. So...if you are accused of Criminal Sexual Conduct with a minor in Oakland County or Macomb County, Michigan, and there is a CARE House interview at play in your case, what does it mean for you? Here are some important things that you and your Michigan CSC Defense Attorney must know:

  • As with any Children's Advocacy Center, the interviewers at CARE House often fail to correctly follow the Forensic Interviewing Protocol for Criminal Sexual Conduct cases. Remember that this Protocol is designed to produce reliable disclosures of child sexual abuse. So when that Protocol is violated, it undermines the reliability of the accusation to some varying degree. An effective Criminal Sexual Conduct Defense Lawyer can and must exploit this for your defense.
  • Even though it is unfair that CARE House does not record it's interviews using audiovisual technology, and instead chooses to create these "transcripts," a good Criminal Defense Attorney can turn that into an advantage for you in the eyes of the Jury by pointing out how ridiculous it is.
  • If the child accuser testifies at the preliminary exam or trial to something different than what is contained in the CARE House transcript, a skillful and well-prepared CSC Defense Lawyer will be able to impeach (discredit) the witness on that point. If the child is too young to be effectively impeached, the CARE House interviewer can become a witness, and will most likely adopt what is contained in the CARE House transcript.
  • More statements by the accuser are generally ALWAYS better-than fewer statements. A CARE House interview is another statement. The more statements a witness gives, the more likely the false accuser is to contradict themselves.
  • The bottom-line is that in a Macomb County CSC case or Oakland County CSC case, if CARE House is involved, it creates opportunities to help you win your case and be found NOT GUILTY if your attorney understands how CARE House works, how their practices compare to other Child Advocacy Centers across Michigan and the US, and how to raise doubt as a result of those practices.
Truthfully, the only way to avoid a conviction for Criminal Sexual Conduct is to build a relationship with a Top-Ranked Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney. Brian J. Prain has been honored as part of the Nations Top 1-Percent by NADC, Top 100 Criminal Trial Lawyers in Michigan and Top 40 Trial Lawyers Under 40in Michigan by The National Trial Lawyers, Top 40 Michigan Criminal Defense Lawyers Under 40 by NACDA, and one of the Premier 100 by AATA. Both Brian himself and Prain Law, PLLC have been honored by the AIOCLA with their Top 10 Award for Client Satisfaction. Brian can be seen in both Super Lawyers Magazine and HOUR DETROIT Magazine.
If you or someone you care about is facing a Michigan Criminal Sexual Conduct charge, contact Prain Law, PLLC anytime at (248) 731-4543.

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Prain Law, PLLC is focused only on the types charges featured on our website. This helps us deliver the decisive, effective advocacy for which our clients know us. We only serve individuals currently under investigation or who have a current case pending in court. Our firm does not represent injury victims, defendants who have already taken a plea or have been sentenced, or those seeking to expunge a criminal record. We do not respond to anyone who is not involved in a pending investigation or who has a court case for a type of charge we do not handle, but we wish you the very best of luck.