“All kids have their own unique histories and experiences. Every story is different. Every child and family is different.”
– Amanda McVay, Forensic Interviewer
At Children’s Center, one of the most important parts of a child’s assessment is a digitally recorded forensic interview. Each session is conducted in a comfortable space with a trained interviewer who helps a child share their story.
Minimizing the trauma of duplicative interviews is one of our top priorities. Each interview is tailored to a child’s developmental age as well as their cognitive, social, and emotional abilities. The process allows law enforcement, child protective workers, district attorneys, and juries to do their best work, too.
Amanda McVay, one of our forensic interviewers, has interviewed more than 2,000 children during her 10 years at Children’s Center. She has a passion for empowering kids to use their own voice to tell their stories.
“It’s an art form,” McVay says. “It’s being able to be present with the child, listen to them, and help them describe what happened in their own words. I love the challenge, knowing that there could always be something new or different with an assessment.” Amanda hopes to have a positive impact on the children she interviews, allowing them to feel supported and in control at a time when they may have been powerless otherwise."
Not long ago – before there were trained forensic interviewers like Amanda – children would have to take part in duplicative interviews, telling their story around town to multiple strangers involved in the investigation. Now, they share their story once, with a person who is specially trained in child development and the child interview practicum – someone who hears them and believes them.
Amanda moved to Oregon in 2004, continuing her career as a Social Services Specialist in Clackamas County. She often worked with kids and families who were experiencing abuse – gathering information about the circumstances of the abuse and developing a plan for their families.
In 2007, Children’s Center began hiring additional clinical staff to address the growing need for comprehensive child abuse assessments, which includes a forensic interview. Excited about a role that offered a child-focused atmosphere, state-of-the-art facilities, and an environment that supported caregivers and parents, McVay jumped at the opportunity to become a full-time Forensic Interviewer.
“When I moved to Oregon, I knew that I enjoyed working with families and kids,” McVay reveals. “My interest was piqued when I heard about Children’s Center. Tonia Hunt and Children’s Center gave me an opportunity to do the work I love.”
A significant amount of Amanda’s work also includes testifying in court about the children she interviews and the process itself. Typically, a recording of her interview with the child is played for the jury, after which she answers clarifying questions from prosecuting and defense attorneys. While it can be stressful to testify, Amanda knows this is an important opportunity to provide information so the justice system can work as it should. It also enables her to introduce Children’s Center to community members who may not know about the important services we offer.
“I enjoy being able to share what we do at Children’s Center and what I do as an interviewer with a jury,” McVay said. “After testifying, I feel a great sense of accomplishment when someone who has severely harmed a child is convicted and sent to prison.”
Children’s Center’s interviewers all benefit from considerable training for this specialized work. McVay and the interview team at Children’s Center continuously review cases with colleagues at similar intervention centers in an effort to improve their techniques. Forensic Interviewers and researchers continue to pursue breakthroughs in the field to ensure that children are given the best opportunities to give a complete and accurate report of their abuse.
“The first criminal case in which I testified resulted in the perpetrator being convicted and sentenced to 50 years,” McVay said. “That made a real impression on me. It was then I realized the greater impact of my work in our community. I listen to children talk about their own experiences, and through the legal system, when I testify in court, I’m actually helping to make the community safer. And that’s a great feeling!”