- ChildFirst SC
- Forensic Interview
- Forensic Medical Exam
The DMHARC Victim Advocate assists clients and their caregivers who are in crisis to traverse the multiple systems they encounter during the investigation. Victim Advocacy services may include assisting in scheduling appointments; acting as a liaison between the family and law enforcement or prosecution; answering questions about the services provided at DMHARC; providing referrals to necessary resources; helping caregivers file applications with the State Office of Victim Assistance; and consulting with Multi-Disciplinary Team. The DMHARC Victim Advocate is part of the ongoing effort to reduce stress on families and is available to them for whatever needs may arise.
The Department of Mental Health Assessment & Resource Center for Richland County (DMHARC) trains front-line child protection professionals to respond quickly, sensitively and skillfully to cases of child abuse. Students learn the skills necessary to conduct an investigative interview --also known as a forensic interview—of a suspected child abuse victim.
The training program, ChildFirst South Carolina, is conducted at the DMHARC and the DMHARC’s staff provides the faculty for the training. The interactive course is conducted over five days and includes classroom instruction via lectures and demonstrations, homework assignments, and role-play interviews with professional actors playing the roles of abused children. There is a written examination at the end of the course.
The training has the following objectives:
- Understanding the CornerHouse forensic interview process (RATAC) for interviewing children about abuse;
- Understanding the benefits of using a multidisciplinary approach when interviewing children about possible abuse;
- Applying the information and techniques by participating in role-play interviews;
- Understanding what it means to act as a “neutral” professional when obtaining information from the child during a forensic interview; and
- Reading the significant research and professional articles related to the forensic interviewing of children.
DMHARC’s primary mission as an accredited Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) is to provide forensically sound, developmentally appropriate fact-finding interviews in a child-friendly environment. We interview children and teenagers between the ages of 3 and 18. Additionally, we sometimes provide such interviews to adults with developmental delays or other functional impairments. Our interviews, which we video record, are generally conducted at the request of an involved law enforcement or child protective services agency. Under some circumstances, DMHARC will conduct an interview at the request of a medical care provider. DMHARC interviewers have specialized training in forensic interviewing techniques, as well as child development, childhood disorders, memory and suggestibility, and other areas relevant to child abuse professionals.
Forensic Medical Exam
Often, parents are nervous at the thought of a medical exam looking for signs of child abuse. At DMHARC, your child will meet the Child Life Specialist, who has special training in assisting children in medical settings. The Child Life Specialist (CLS) will explain every aspect of the exam to your child, using words he/she can understand, and will show your child the exam room and equipment. Your child will then meet the doctor and nurse, and the CLS will stay with your child for the exam. No part of the exam is painful, and your child will be given many choices during the exam, so that he/she will feel in control. You can expect your child to return to the waiting room cheerful and proud of participating!
Staff members at DMHARC collaborate with investigators from many disciplines as they discharge their duties in evaluating allegations of child maltreatment and neglect. DMHARC coordinates and serves on The Richland County Child Abuse Investigation Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT). MDT was developed in 1993 to provide service to victims of crime -- The Richland County MDT consists of the agencies charged with responding to complaints of child abuse, including local law enforcement, DSS, the Solicitor's Office and DMHARC, where medical examinations, forensic interviews and mental health services are provided. The team regularly meets to review cases and coordinate its efforts to reduce duplication of services, increase communication between agencies and diminish the burdens placed on victims and their families.
We believe that children who are victims of abuse deserve access to high quality, evidence-based treatment. If you need help finding an appropriate provider in your community, please contact Heather M. Smith, LPC at 803-898-1470. Our team is happy to assist families or agencies find appropriate services for a child in need. Treatment services at the DMHARC are currently limited to the following short-term interventions:
Clarification Therapy After Unfounded Allegations
A brief family therapy designed to provide education and protection strategies in the home environments; this intervention is helpful when there has been a concern about possible abuse, nothing is proven, and the family will benefit from a roadmap to promote safety and communication in the future. Often used with divorced or divorcing parents, it is also a helpful tool when reunifying a parent and child who have been separated due to unfounded allegations of abuse.
A brief intervention to prepare the child to testify in the courtroom. This process includes courtroom orientation, learning and practicing coping skills and educating the child and family about the process.