Going to court is a big deal for anyone—including forensic interviewers who are subpoenaed to provide testimony about a child’s disclosure at a Children’s Advocacy Center. That’s why our Forensic Interviewer at Trial (FIT) training is a big deal, too. Taking place over three days, this training provides CAC forensic interviewers and prosecuting attorneys from their District Attorney offices a unique opportunity to gather in-person for specialized learning and role-play in preparation for cases that go to trial.
Using curriculum licensed by Zero Abuse Project, we offer FIT twice per year. Recently, six Pennsylvania counties sent interviewer-prosecutor teams to our training held October 25-27 in Mechanicsburg. Congratulations to Cumberland-Dauphin, York, Berks, Philadelphia, Armstrong, and Cambria counties for completing last month’s intensive FIT training!
Participants learned from seasoned FIT faculty—three forensic interviewers with advanced experience and two practicing attorneys with specialized knowledge of child abuse cases—in topical training sessions as well as interactive skill-building practice. The agenda included presentations informed by current research on child disclosures and forensic interviewing, demonstrations of actual courtroom scenarios, and interactive sessions for both interviewers and prosecutors to practice defending a child’s statement and the CAC process.
Lauren Perchinski is a senior assistant district attorney in Cumberland County, where she prosecutes sexual assault cases and crimes against children. Attending with Amber Bybee and Cara Daly, both forensic interviewers with the UPMC Child Advocacy Center of Central PA, Lauren spoke highly of the opportunity: “As a prosecutor, I only see cases from our own county and the typical way we approach those. It’s really helpful to see what other counties do when it comes to talking about the forensic interview in court.”
FIT can help forensic interviewers and prosecutors at any stage of their careers. The October cohort included seasoned professionals like Lauren—who has prosecuted many cases of child abuse—and newer professionals like Maggie Conte, who recently joined the Kay’s Cottage Child Advocacy Center staff as a first-time forensic interviewer. While Maggie has not yet been called to court, she has a better idea of what to expect as a result of the FIT training.
What makes FIT so unique is the interactive dynamic. The curriculum includes a sample case—complete with a mock forensic interview recording and a defense “expert” witness statement and resume, created as tools for participants to prepare for the training. Having reviewed the sample case and defense witness documents in advance, teams arrive ready to collaborate on how to best represent the forensic interview and cross-examine the witness. FIT faculty provide immediate feedback to each set of professionals, another opportunity for all participants to learn from each other’s strengths and areas for improvement.
We’re so proud of all our FIT teams! It’s a big commitment for interviewers and prosecutors to spend three days building rapport and practicing courtroom scenarios. It’s also a significant undertaking for faculty. Thank you to all who make October’s training a success.