County agrees to fund forensic interviewer

Published 8:32pm Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The children of Dallas County will no longer have to leave town for a forensic interview, as a forensic interviewer will now be available in Dallas County after the Dallas County Commission approved a funding request of $3,500 for the Central Alabama Regional Child Advocacy Center during Monday’s county commission meeting.

“They will be able now to do our forensic interviews for children (in Dallas County) that may have been raped, abused or anything that eventually will come before the grand jury,” Dallas County Probate Judge Kim Ballard said. “It’s required that the forensic interviewer interview the kids one at a time, and in the past one of our female deputies has always taken the kids to Montgomery to do these interviews and of course the deputy would have to find something to do and wait for the interview to be over then turn around and come back.”

Having the interviewer in Dallas County will also provide a savings, Ballard said.

“It was a cost in hourly pay to the deputy and also travel expense back and forth to Montgomery — now they can do it here, instead of having to take the kids to Montgomery,” he said. “The total amount would have been between $8,000 and $10,000 a year. We’re still going to have to pay $3,500. You can do the math and see that it will be quite a savings.”

Central Alabama Regional CAC executive director Lauri Cothran said she was thrilled to hear that the funding had been approved.

“I’m just real excited. It’s just really heart lifting to know that the counties are starting to understand the service that we’re providing and understand that it’s so important to abused children,” Cothran said. “[The children] don’t often understand that they’re not at fault and it’s really the first step for them, we encourage going to counseling, but it’s a first place for them, where they can talk about it and there’s no judgment. There’s a person who’s trained to hear.”

Cothran explained that a forensic interviewer has to go to a 40-hour training and is trained in a specific manner.

“The interview is recorded and the recording can then be used by law enforcement in the prosecutorial process,” she said. “So if we do not have a forensic interviewer here, then the law enforcement and DHR personnel would have to take children in the five counties (the Central Alabama Regional CAC serves) to other Child Advocacy Centers to have them interviewed.”

The Central Alabama Regional CAC serves the 4th judicial circuit, which includes Bibb, Dallas, Hale, Perry and Wilcox Counties.

“It will be a great benefit to the children in the whole region and in Dallas County specifically. We are working with each of the counties to try to get funding to share the burden of the cost,” Cothran said.

“Specially it means that children in Dallas County will not have to go out of town, they’ll be able to go into a child-friendly setting, and they won’t have to go from place to place to place.”

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