PARKERSBURG - Lisa Sutton, executive director of the Children's Listening Place, 1206 Market St., since February, was the keynote speaker at the North Parkersburg Kiwanis Club meeting.
Michele Rusen, former Wood County prosecutor, is the chairman of the Listening Place board and also spoke to club members.
The Children's Listening Place, a child advocacy center, is a nonprofit organization funded through grants, donations and fundraising activities. The Wood County child advocacy center is the 21st center to open in West Virginia, serving children who range in age from 4 to 18 years.
Wood County ranks No. 3 in child abuse in West Virginia.
"Our job at the Children's Listening Place is to perform forensic interviews that are used as evidence in the investigation of perpetrators of child abuse and neglect," she said. "We work closely with Child Protective Services, local law enforcement and the Prosecuting Attorney's Office in an effort to make Wood County a safe place for children."
Previously, when kids reported abuse at home to their teacher, the teacher reported the abuse to the principal, the principal would tell the school nurse who then examined the child. The school contacted police who interviewed the child.
Then the child was interviewed at a hospital by a nurse and social worker, followed by a doctor's examination. A detective was assigned to the case and the child often was referred to a specialized hospital for a nurse, social worker and doctor's interview followed by an examination by another doctor.
A child protection investigator would then interview the child followed by an interview with a lawyer and a consultation with a counselor.
The child would eventually be interviewed by 15 or more people, Sutton said.
Today, when a kid needs help for abuse, the child is interviewed by a child advocacy worker during which time a detective, a child protection service worker and an attorney for the state listen as a team through an electronic listening device in an adjoining room.
This interview method ensures that the child is unaware of the presence of the team listening to the interview and protects the integrity of the child's account of the abuse. The child only needs to be interviewed three times, Sutton said.
Sutton, a treatment team member with the Wood County Drug Court, also is a coroner for Pleasants and Wood counties and has been an investigator for the medical examiner in Charleston.
She previously worked for child Protective Services and, in 2010, was recognized as "Outstanding Child Protective Service Worker" in Wood County. Sutton, a graduate of West Virginia University, also has an extensive work history in dealing with substance abuse.