Part 2 of Focus on First Witness: Importance of a forensic interview
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First Witness Child Advocacy Center has been helping families who are dealing with child abuse since 1990 now. It can be a difficult topic to discuss. But we are shedding light on their work, to help bring awareness to the community.
Once a child discloses allegations of abuse, the next step may include a forensic interview at First Witness.
Megan Prouty, a forensic interviewer and trainer, did a demonstration for us. Kendra, a local actor, portrayed a 10-year-old girl named Meghan.
Prouty explained that building rapport can be the most important part. “It allows a child to get comfortable and feel heard. We can let them know about the room, and know there is a camera, and a team of people who are listening. And we can also get to know them.”
It also gives the interviewer a chance to learn how the child communicates.
Sitting in another room, but watching it unfold live, are members of the multi-disciplinary team. They can make sure they get information needed to make sure they have a complete case.
And they do all of this, while following something called ChildFirst protocol. Prouty told us, “We want to make sure the child is OK. And not continuing to traumatize them through the process.”
The process is also important for the criminal justice system. It can be used in court as evidence.
Jon Holets, an Assistant County Attorney in the criminal division, is part of the multi-disciplinary team at First Witness.
He told us that the forensic interview is mission critical. “We need to have a statement from the child, if they’re going to be a witness in the case. I’d rather get a thorough interview from them in a friendly, research-supported way, prior to them having to come to this building.”
Holets is referencing the St. Louis County Courthouse, which can be an intimidating building for adults as well.
First Witness also provides advocacy services, which can include helping families during court proceedings.
As heavy as all of this work can be, the staff at First Witness make sure to take care of one another.
“We share the good in our days,” Prouty told us.
First Witness has launched their Restoring Hope Capital Campaign, to help fund their new center on 14th Avenue East.
We have a link here: https://firstwitness.org/restoring-hope-capital-campaign/