New observation room at Harold’s House expands care for young abuse victims

New observation room at Harold’s House expands care for young abuse victims

LUFKIN, Texas (KTRE) - Law enforcement investigators and Child Protective Services have a new resource at their disposal when carefully dealing with their youngest abuse victims.

Harold’s House in Lufkin serves as a children’s advocacy center, offering a place where a child suffering from sexual or physical abuse can share their story in a friendly, supportive environment.

Previously, Harold’s House had only one room to hold interviews with survivors. The addition of another room allows staff to attend to the needs of more victims on a more timely basis.

“Now, we’ve doubled our capacity,” said Ashley Cook, education community director at Harold’s House. “Within this week, we’ll have two rooms where interviews can happen simultaneously - two different interviews going on at the same time - so it cuts down on the wait time for children.”

During an interview, forensic interviewers speak with children while investigators and CPS workers sit in an observation room. The interviews are held in such a way to protect the child’s psyche, allowing them to tell the story of what happened to them in a minimum number of times.

“We burn a copy of that DVD of the interview and hand that over to the court, or attorney, or law enforcement CPS officials and they watch that DVD over and over instead of the child being interviewed over and over,” said Cook. “And that lessens their trauma.”

Cook added that the approach gives children an opportunity to unburden themselves with a friendly face who supports them.

“Children are so free when they’re able to tell their story,” she explained. “Some of them say, ‘Oh, can I come in tomorrow?’ because it’s such a good process to have someone who believes them and hears them.

“I’ve heard many times from adult survivors who say I really wish Harold’s House was around when I was a child so I could’ve had that experience.”

Harold’s House serves about 40 children a month at its Lufkin office, or a little more than one child per day, Cook said. Harold’s House also serves Angelina, Nacogdoches, and Sabine counties.

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