News

State sponsors training to improve interviewing skills in child abuse cases

June 28, 2018 - 10:45am

Law enforcement, victim advocates learn forensic interviewing techniques Key goal is to reduce trauma to child victims

 

The New York State Office of Victim Services is partnering with the National Children’s Advocacy Center to train 28 law enforcement and victim services professionals in techniques for conducting child-appropriate forensic interviews. The 40-hour, five-day training – offered this week for the first time by the agency – will allow these individuals to develop skills and techniques to more effectively handle child abuse cases and prevent further trauma to victims.

“As a former special victims’ prosecutor, I’ve seen first-hand the effect trauma can have on child abuse victims and how it can make them reluctant or unable to discuss their ordeal,” Office of Victim Services Director Elizabeth Cronin said. “This immersive training will provide victim service professionals with the knowledge and skills they need to interview an abused child in a manner that provides law enforcement and prosecutors with critical evidence without inflicting additional trauma on the victim.”

The training explores a variety of topics, including effective engagement and questioning strategies; child development; memory and suggestibility; and testifying in court. Children who have been abused –particularly those victimized by someone entrusted with their care – often experience a range of issues that can complicate investigations and healing, including a lack of trust, behavioral issues, refusal to communicate, depression, anxiety and anger.

Successful forensic interviews rely on a victim’s level of comfort and safety, which can determine whether they are willing to discuss their abuse. Forensic interviewers create an environment that provides children with a safe space to disclose, reduces the number of times they must recount what happened, and helps children with their healing process. Importantly, they can also connect victims and their families with services that can assist with recovery.

“We are excited to partner with the State of New York to provide the training needed to perform legally sound and developmentally appropriate forensic interviews,” National Child Advocacy Center Training Director Pamela Jones said. “The internationally-recognized NCAC Child Forensic Interview Structure promotes research-based procedures that prevent further trauma for a child reporting abuse.”

Law enforcement and victim services professionals attending the training work with 14 state-approved Child Advocacy Centers across the state. These Centers allow multidisciplinary teams of law enforcement, child protective services professionals, prosecutors, medical and mental health providers, and victim advocates to partner with center staff and respond to allegations of child abuse. This collaborative approach helps to reduce trauma experienced by child victims, assists their families, provides necessary support services and allows for thorough investigations to hold offenders accountable.

“Establishing trust with a child who has suffered physical or sexual abuse is an important part of helping them to relay important details that will ultimately bring their abuser to justice,” said Kristen Plyter, the coordinator of Crime Victims Services at the Schuyler County District Attorney’s Office and a conference attendee. “This training is providing us with key techniques and strategies to engage child victims in a productive dialogue that gathers important evidence for investigations in a manner that is least invasive and less likely to cause further trauma to them.”

Last year, the Office of Victim Services awarded more than $4 million in grants to 25-state approved Child Advocacy Centers, which used the funding to hire forensic interviewers or appropriately-trained consultants to handle interviews with children and purchase video recording, conference call and other equipment to facilitate those interviews and allow multidisciplinary team members to communicate in real time while cases are being investigated.

Professionals from the following agencies and organizations attended the training:

  • Statewide: New York State Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs
  • New York City: Bronx County District Attorney’s Office; Bronx Legal Services; Kings County District Attorney's Office; Safe Horizon
  • Long Island: EAC Child Advocacy Center (Suffolk County)
  • Mid-Hudson: Center for Safety and Change (Rockland County)
  • Capital Region: Albany County Crime Victim & Sexual Violence Center, Child Advocacy Center of Columbia and Greene Counties, Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, and the Sexual Assault and Crime Victims Assistance Program (Rensselaer County)
  • North Country: Child Advocacy Center of Northern New York (Jefferson County)
  • Central New York: Madison County Child Advocacy Center
  • Southern Tier: Chemung County Child Advocacy Center

The Office of Victim Services provides a safety net for crime victims and/or their family members who have been victimized through no fault of their own and have no other means of assistance. The agency compensates eligible individuals and family members for medical and counseling expenses, funeral and burial expenses, lost wages and support, and loss or damage of essential personal property, in addition to other assistance.

The agency also funds a network of 222 victim assistance programs that provide direct services, such as counseling, crisis intervention, advocacy and legal assistance, across New York State.

Funding for compensation, services for crime victims and training for professionals comes from the federal Victims of Crime Act and the state’s Criminal Justice Improvement Account, both of which are funded through fines, fees and surcharges paid by certain offenders after conviction in state or federal court.

For more information about services offered by the agency, including eligibility guidelines, visit www.ovs.ny.gov or call 1-800-247-8035.