Trainings on multi-disciplinary child-abuse investigations can be hard to find and, when they are offered, can be expensive. To fill this gap and ensure Alameda County’s child-abuse professionals stay on top of the latest research, CALICO hosts an annual day-long training for its partners. This month, CALICO held its 18th Annual Collaborative Training featuring two of the top experts in the country: Dr. Tom Lyon, an attorney and psychologist from the University of Southern California, a pioneer and leading authority in forensic interviewing research; and Julie Kenniston, a nationally renowned forensic interviewer and consultant.
The training generated considerable interest and was filled to capacity, with attendees driving from as far as Manteca and French Camp to learn from these preeminent specialists. Over 160 child-abuse investigators and service providers attended – an amazingly high number, given how busy these professionals are with large caseloads. “This was my first CALICO training and as a new detective it was extremely informative. As a sexual assault investigator, the training answered a lot of questions about why CALICO does what it does,” one attendee remarked. Many other attendees expressed gratitude for the information they learn at each of CALICO’s annual trainings.
This year’s theme for the Collaborative Training was “Unlocking Family Secrets” and focused on the particular challenges that accompany allegations of intrafamilial abuse. Dr. Lyon revealed the latest research regarding child recantations of abuse, pointing out that a child often recants as a result of family pressure and not because the abuse didn’t, in fact, occur. While offering practical tips on interviewing children, Dr. Lyon stressed the importance of including time for the child to practice providing a narrative account of an event, for example, describing his/her last birthday or what s/he did today, before moving into the more sensitive account of the abuse. Julie Kenniston addressed the thorny issue of responding to child-abuse allegations that surface in the context of parent custody disputes. She acknowledged the bias that can creep into the professional response and challenged attendees to remain neutral and fully consider and test multiple hypotheses during the interview to understand why this disclosure was revealed at this time and how best to respond.
Attendees left the training energized with ideas for how to incorporate what they learned into their daily work, including better strategies for talking to victims of all ages, with a renewed commitment to working across disciplines to investigate cases. As one attendee, from another county, relayed, “I will have MDT leadership discuss and develop policy and procedures around practices in these areas.”
At CALICO we understand that working in the field of child abuse can be challenging, and we want to make sure our partners have as much information as possible to help them succeed in their work. We are pleased that such a large group attended the training and showed their commitment to staying at the forefront of best practices for handling child abuse cases. CALICO appreciates their dedication to keeping children safe and healthy.