MARK KOBERSTEIN began his law enforcement career in 1974. He first worked as a Military Police Investigator for the U.S. Army. In 1978, he helped launch the Military Police Human Services division for the Fort Lewis Law Enforcement Command, which investigated all family and juvenile related crimes.
In 1980, Mark began working with the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office, serving in a variety of detective and investigative protective service roles. Through his early career, he was frequently assigned to the investigation, prosecution and prevention of child abuse. While on patrol, Mark was often faced with the challenges surrounding the procedures for investigating child abuse and conducting forensic interviews.
Kids were initially interviewed in the presence of their parents, primary caregivers, or family members – any of whom might have been a suspect. There were no bears or blankets in patrol cars for kids to help them feel comfortable, supported, and heard. Interview locations, such as the old Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office, required a child to sit for long periods of time in the waiting area, as criminal suspects, witnesses and bystanders frequently entered the building for other business.
Since Mark wasn’t specifically trained to interview children at different developmental levels about certain types of abuse, he did not have the tools he needed to do it well. In order to pin down dates and times of abuse, Mark would regularly use out-of-date TV Guides during interviews to try to get kids to tell him about their favorite show. He would ask whether any form of abuse had occurred on a day each show aired.
As child abuse intervention centers such as CARES Northwest were established in Multnomah County, Mark believed child abuse awareness was elevated to a top priority of the Sheriff’s Office and for the highly trained and professional investigators.
When the neutral, child-friendly setting of Children’s Center opened in Clackamas County, it enabled investigative agencies to collaborate as a multidisciplinary team. Mark was struck by how all of those involved sought ways to investigate these crimes with more care and compassion.
“All of the people involved with the frustrations of investigating child abuse united to try to find a better way,” Koberstein said. “It was all of us working together, including Children’s Center, to help investigate or stop any form of child abuse that has gotten us to where we are today.”
In the past, children were often taken by investigators to a medical facility for an exam, with all the sounds and smells of a hospital emergency room. Mark understood that a nationally accredited, cutting-edge specialty clinic such as Children’s Center would make it possible to provide a space to offer sensitive, child-focused assessments and family healing.
“At Children’s Center, I know that kids are interviewed in a neutral, child-friendly setting—not a sanitized hospital or a scary police station, and suspects do not have access to the victims,” Koberstein said. “Children’s Center examiners and interviewers have the tools and equipment they need to support kids through the process.”