The Division of Youth Services recently completed forensic interview certification to build the CNMI’s capacity to address child abuse, neglect, and related youth protection services.
The five-day training was provided by the First Witness Child Advocacy Center from Duluth, Minnesota.
First Witness Child Advocacy adopts the approach that is child-centered, especially when dealing with victims of child sexual and physical abuse and allowing them to safely tell their story. FWCA provides child appropriate forensic interview techniques, crisis counseling to children and families, and age appropriate education on personal body safety for children.
“Our personnel went through multiple content areas with FWCA, including the dynamics in child abuse, process of disclosure, child development, questioning children, child-first forensic interview protocol, anatomical dolls, preparing kids for court, testifying in court, hearsay and working with multi-disciplinary teams,” said DYS administrator Vivian Sablan.
The highlight of the five-day training was the exercise that involved role-playing and interviews with a trained actor portraying a child with abuse in their history, said Community and Cultural Affairs Secretary Robert Hunter.
“DYS is pivotal in addressing the needs of the family and our children. Efforts to detect and deal with these issues effectively and appropriately are important. This service will go a long way in meeting the diverse and often complex-ridden and multi-faceted problems and needs of our community. I am proud that we now have 12 DCCA Division of Youth Services staff who are fully certified forensic interviewers, with one on Tinian and two on Rota as well as two staff of the CNMI Attorney General’s Office and one from the Department of Public Safety. This increased capacity and collaboration will help us better assist our community,” Hunter said.
DYS, as the lead agency that responds to child abuse and neglect and having the only pool of trained and certified forensic interviewers throughout the CNMI, works closely with the Department of Public Safety in conducting forensic interviews for alleged victims of various forms of maltreatment.
“From dealing with cases such as sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect, and domestic violence, DYS is averaging about eight forensic interviews a month. These reports are used in court as evidence during trials and are a key part of the child advocacy and protection process,” Sablan said.
Acting governor Victor B. Hocog said that DYS is responsible for reducing and, when possible, eradicating child abuse and neglect.
“Building our capacity and skills to address these social issues brings together our vision of addressing generational and social ills. The success of our youth is reflective of the success of the approaches we apply and our continued priorities. Gov. [Ralph DLG] Torres and I extend my gratitude to the hardworking staff, counselors, and case workers who work closely with our youth in the Commonwealth, and concurrently address the related social problems plaguing families who need the most help,” Hocog said. (PR)