Rural Community Unites to Give Abuse Survivors New Services


A rural town in central Arizona has been gifted a vital interview room thanks to a partnership between Childhelp, the Gila County Multidisciplinary Team, Rim Country Arizonans for Children, Gila County Sherriff’s Posse , and Caring Connections for Special Needs.

The room fulfills a need in the community for a neutral, distraction free, child friendly facility to interview children in crisis. Interviewees may range from children who witnessed violent domestic crimes – such as the murder of a parent – to a child with special needs who was just removed from the home after encountering abuse.

Interview equipment in the room captures conversation between a forensic interviewer and the interviewee, with other officials listening from a monitoring room. These rooms minimize the number of times a child has to relive a trauma during a child abuse investigation.

 

THE NEED

 

Located in Payson, a rural community of approximately 15,500 people, the room supplements regional community resources that are – though beneficial – sometimes unavailable or difficult to access.

Our Childhelp Mobile Advocacy Center services central and northern Arizona including Gila County, providing specialized services to a wide geographic area. But weather and long travel times sometimes make the mobile unit impractical, and advocacy center staff might have to turn to other means to conduct an interview. Mobile unit maintenance also makes it unavailable at times.

The Gila County Multidisciplinary Team identified the need for a permanent, distraction-free interview room to be set up in Payson. This room would need to be accessed by children with special needs in a non-intimidating environment.  At the time, there was no alternative available in Payson that fit these criteria.

 

THE SOLUTION

 

About two years ago, the Gila County Multidisciplinary Team came together to address the need for a permanent interview room in Payson. This team is made up of multiple groups, including Childhelp, the Gila County Attorney’s Office, the Arizona Department of Child Safety and local law enforcement.

To begin, the group set out in search of a space for the interview room as well as recording equipment. Thanks to two kind-hearted donors, the Gila County Sherriff’s Posse in Payson and Rim Country Arizonans for Children, the team eventually secured space along with $3,000 for the equipment.

Once the recording equipment and room were set up and installed, Childhelp took ownership of the equipment and trained officials on proper use.

“We are a small town, and it really was a big accomplishment that we were able to do all this,” Shelley Soroka Spence, program manager of the Childhelp Gila County Children’s Advocacy Center, said.

The room is now fully functional and available 24/7, at the ready to serve children and meet them with compassion and kindness at this first junction in healing after trauma.