The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

Local Scene

May 17, 2014

Blankets and Bears donation provides upgraded forensic interview room for Crisis Center

PALESTINE —

Thanks to a $4,000 donation provided by the Anderson County Blankets and Bears Children's Fund, the Children's Advocacy Center, located at 313 W. Debard St., was able to remodel their forensic interview room last month — a project that could have a significant impact in the legal aftermath of child abuse cases.

With the remodel, the center added new colors, carpet and furniture. Workers stripped the walls of a harsh mustard yellow and repainted with a calmer shade of light blue — reminiscent of the sky after it rains. The way the room “feels” can make a huge difference in the interview process, according to trained forensic interviewer Becky Cunio.

“It's kind of important for that to be in a child-friendly facility,” Cunio told the Herald-Press.

In the tragic event a child of Anderson County suffers abuse, one of the first steps in the long legal process that ensues is for that child to be interviewed by a trained forensic interviewer. This person converses with all area child abuse victims to gather information, which is documented and presented in legal court proceedings.

“Any child that's under the age of 17 years old, and there are sexual abuse allegations, we have an interagency agreement with all the police departments,” Cunio said. “They are required to come here for a forensic interview. That is to prevent people on patrol or people who don't have experience questioning children, that's to prevent all these different individuals from subjecting a child to repeated interviews over and over again.”

At the local Children's Advocacy Center (CAC), housed within the Crisis Center of Cherokee and Anderson Counties, Cunio handles this delicate part of the process.

During an appreciation luncheon hosted Friday in honor of Blankets and Bears, Cunio thanked members for their donation and for making the interview process more accommodating for children.

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