TAYLOR COUNTY—Crimes involving children are on the rise in Taylor County, and in an effort to better handle the cases, one local prosecutor recently attended a very informative training.
Prosecuting Attorney Shawn Nines recently attended the Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center’s Third Annual Violence Intervention and Prevention (VIP) Summit.
During the seminar, Nines shared that he learned new tools when it comes to interviewing children when a crime, or alleged crime, has occurred. Although he’s armed with the tools for the job, Nines reported that he’s not in it alone.
“We have an agreement with the Harrison County Child Advocacy Center (CAC) to use them as our first resource when children are involved in a case,” he noted.
The Harrison CAC works closely with the Taylor County Prosecutor’s Office to help gather information from children involved in criminal cases, as well as abuse and neglect cases.
“Their workers are highly trained and specialize in questioning children,” Nines shared. “They know what questions to ask and what questions to follow their initial inquiry, as well as how to ask them so that the child is less traumatized.”
The CAC works with officials in Harrison and Doddridge counties, in addition to Taylor, to help bring justice, hope and healing to children in those areas. Through the CAC, prosecutors can work closely with law enforcement, child protective service workers, medical professionals, mental health professionals and victim advocates, to aid in the prosecution of the alleged perpetrator.
Usually, a child is brought into the center by either law enforcement officials or a child protective services worker. The CAC then begins their investigation, which includes a forensic interview, collection of evidence, photos are taken, witnesses are interviewed and a medical exam and treatment are administered.
“It is beneficial to the children involved, because they are interviewed in a pleasant setting, making it less intimidating on the child,” said Nines. “Again, one of the main goals is to get the information from the child, but we strive to do it in a way that will not cause any further harm or trauma to him or her.”
A case review is comprised and shared with any of the officials involved in the investigation.
“They are a great service to our county,” expressed Nines. “Their service goes above and beyond for the youths and families that they encounter.”
In fact, Nines revealed that it was the Harrison County CAC that allowed for him to attend the VIP Summit.
“I came away with a better understanding of questions that need asked, how to ask them and additional information sources,” Nines revealed.
He shared that various presentations were held over the three-day summit, including topics such as advanced training in abuse and neglect cases, recognizing the long-term effects of children who have been exposed to domestic violence or drug use, ways for prosecutors to question children in court causing little to no trauma and many other topics.
“They taught us what to look for when investigating a child’s injuries. They said that injuries could be broken down by four planes on the body and that although children incur bumps and bruises in their everyday life, those smaller injuries wouldn’t occur on different planes. Injuries on multiple or unrelated planes might indicate abuse,” Nines explained. “They also explained to us certain things to look for when we suspect child abuse has occurred.”
He went on to say that not only did attendees learn about important interviewing techniques, signs and symptoms to watch for and crucial information involving many topics, but they were able to make connections with notable experts in fields including medical examinations, drug abuse and physical abuse.
“These experts were top notch, national individuals,” expressed Nines. “It was great to get to meet with them face to face and make connections that we will be able to use in future cases.”
He went to disclose that attendees were also invited to use the National Child Advocacy Center’s research library, which houses case studies and medical studies for cases of all sorts.
“They will have someone that we can talk to letting them know what we are looking for and they will provide the information. It will save us a lot of time, and perhaps money, to be able to have access to this service,” Nines noted.
“I was honored to attend the training and came away with a better knowledge and vital information that I will be able to use going forward with my cases,” imparted Nines. “I really can’t say enough about Jayne Landacre, the Harrison County CAC’s Executive Director and Patty Saunders, Family Advocate. This partnership has already proved to be beneficial to not only me, but to Taylor County, as well.”