Child Advocacy Center opening in Peterborough
Katrina Lee, left, and Erin McIntyre share a laugh as they set up the child-friendly reception room prior to the grand opening of the new Peterborough office of the Monadnock Region Child Advocacy Center.
(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
Erin McIntyre with a wall hanging where children who visit the Monadnock Region Child Advocacy Center for the first time will be able to add their handprint to those of other children who cmae to the center.
(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
PETERBOROUGH — The Monadnock Region Child Advocacy Center held a grand opening Wednesday at a new site at the Strand Building (174 Concord St.).
According to the center, the site is an important part of the agency’s strategic plan to increase the quality of services offered to abused and neglected children in Southwestern New Hampshire.
“Peterborough will bridge the wide gap between our office in Keene and our sister organization’s in Nashua,” said Katrina Lee, program director of the Monadnock Region Child Advocacy Center, in a release about the opening. “Cutting the travel time and aligning the center with the western part of the state will substantially increase our buy-in from parents and law enforcement.”
The new office has three separate rooms including an interview room where trained forensic interviewers will be able to talk privately and confidentially to a child if an allegation of child abuse is made.
“It used to be that a child would talk to one person, then have to talk to someone else, then maybe to a counselor, maybe to police,” Erin McIntyre, program director for the Hillsborough County Child Advocacy Center, said on Wednesday as she and Lee prepared for the opening ceremony. “Kids would have to recount their story maybe eight times. Kids would shut down. And if a case got to prosecution, it would be challenged.”
Under the child advocacy system, a child is brought to a family-friendly location. A team of police officers, representatives of the Division of Children, Youth and Families, staffers from the county attorneys office and others might be present in a separate room, but the child will be interviewed alone. A closed-circuit TV will broadcast the interview back to the team room, and the forensic interviewer will be wearing an earpiece so he or she can hear suggested questions from those present. The interviews are recorded and serve as evidence if a decision to prosecute is made.
“When it’s done, the child hopefully is done,” McIntyre said.
She said the nonprofit program is part of the Granite State Children’s Alliance, which serves Hillsborough and Cheshire counties through offices in Keene, Nashua and Manchester and Belknap County from a Laconia office.
“It’s a cost beneficial program,” McIntyre said. “If you support children early on, children will heal. Those who continually suffer as children are far more likely to have drug dependency or medical issues.”
McIntyre and Lee are two of the five trained forensic interviewers who work in Hillsborough and Cheshire counties. They also do educational work with local schools to promote awareness of the prevalence of sexual abuse. McIntyre said 500 cases of alleged sexual abuse were investigated in Hillborough County last year.
— By Dave Anderson