SEAVIEW — A children’s advocacy center will soon be open for South Pacific County residents.

Crisis Support Network will open its new children’s advocacy center in May at 4403 State Route 103. The center will provide forensic interviewing and counseling for young abuse and sexual assault victims.

“We’ll be able to provide services to all of the children in Pacific County equally,” said Jennifer Mitchell, CSN programs manager. “We’ll keep families off of the roads traveling back and forth for these appointments, and bring services to them. Having to travel to North County won’t be a part of our kids’ experience now.”

Forensic interviewers work with victims to learn what happened to them, without traumatizing them more. The interview style allows for case workers to determine how best to care for victims.

Like CSN’s Raymond children’s advocacy center, the Seaview location will be kid-friendly. Kids who visit the center will only spend time in colorful rooms featuring items like toys and books.

During a child’s interview, a group of professionals monitors the interview out of sight, helping guide the interview. The group includes a combination of law enforcement officers, counselors, medical providers and social workers.

Changing services

“What we’re really adding to South Pacific County is the children’s advocacy center,” said Rachel McClain, CSN’s children’s advocacy center deputy director and forensic interviewer.

CSN’s offices, staff and services will be split between the center’s new location and its Long Beach office at 2nd Street NE. General crime cases, such as identity theft or vehicular assault will be handled at the 2nd Street office. Domestic violence and sexual abuse victims will be served at the new office.

“We will serve whoever walks through the door with those crimes. That could mean we’re serving abusers or registered sex offenders,” Mitchell said. “We want to make sure we’re keeping our programs separate to give them each what they need.”

Bridging a gap

CSN’s Seaview office won’t only help reduce travel time for victims, it’ll help those who work on the victims’ cases. When cases were handled in Raymond, law enforcement officers and case workers sometimes wouldn’t be able to attend case interviews. CSN would provide the case’s team with a DVD copy of the interview.

The new center will make for an easier and shorter commute for case workers located in South County.

“If they can be part of that interview, they’re able to chime in, give feedback, tell the interviewer to ask certain questions,” McClain said. “It’s really helpful to have them here.”

Interview quality will also be improved, said Julie Jewell, CSN’s executive director.

“It’s not just the quality of the interview, it’s the quality of work that’s being done on cases,” Jewell said. “They’re more involved and they have firsthand knowledge, as opposed to hearing about it from the interviewer.”

The center will also allow for CSN to have a stronger connection with the community.

“We’ll be more visible on the main road,” Mitchell said. “It’ll be like when we added [the children’s advocacy center] to our Raymond office. Better access meant we were utilized more. We end up getting a lot more cases and being involved more with these families.”

Mitchell expects CSN will later create youth support groups for South County residents.

“We now have the space and the environment to expand what we’re doing,” Mitchell said.

New technology

CSN recently received two grants. One gifted CSN with $15,000 of recording equipment, which will be used at the new center.

“It’s one of the biggest things that made this possible,” McClain said.

The second grant is for a cloud-based system which will allow CSN to securely share interview videos with law enforcement officers and CPS workers. CSN employees will also be able to use video chat technology to connect with one another and case workers regarding ongoing cases.

“[The center] is the best thing we can be doing for sexual assault survivors and for the children,” McClain said.

Alyssa Evans is a staff writer for the Chinook Observer. Contact her at 360-642-8181 or aevans@chinookobserver.com

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