Oklahoma Interviewing Dilemma: Demand for Services Statewide Increase While Resources Decrease

Article excerpt

During the fiscal year ended June 30, Oklahoma Interviewing Services Inc. conducted 408 forensic interviews to assist law enforcement and child protection agencies statewide.

The nonprofit agency working out of Oklahoma City also provides professional development training regarding child abuse and neglect, forensic interviewing techniques, cultural diversity and sensitivity and use of interpreters during investigations.

Most of the services require traveling around the state - often to the far corners.

"We go all over the state," said Maria Rosales-Lambert, program director for Oklahoma Interviewing Services.

All the services are provided by just two staff members - Rosales- Lambert and Vicki Boan, both trained forensic interviewers.

For the fiscal year started July 1, Oklahoma Interviewing Services faces a fiscal dilemma - demand for services is increasing while funding is declining.

The nonprofit was formed in 2004 and was granted nonprofit status in 2005. Funding has traditionally come from grants and donations, Rosales-Lambert said.

A major part of the budget has come from Victims of Crime Act grants through the U.S. Department of Justice.

"It is a yearly competition grant," she said. "We have to apply for it every year. This year the Victims of Crime Act was cut almost 10 percent."

With money from the VOCA grant reduced, the nonprofit is seeking additional sources of money, she said.

While available funding has declined, the workload continues to increase.

"Our workload has increased by 75 to 100 cases per year since we started the Oklahoma Interviewing Services," Rosales-Lambert said. "There is demand for many more interviews."

All of the 408 interviews conducted during the fiscal year ended June 30 were staffed by Boan and Rosales-Lambert.

Meanwhile, the workforce has declined along with the budget.

"Vicki just works part time now," Rosales-Lambert said.

Rosales-Lambert, who was born in Mexico, conducts interviews in both Spanish and English.

Rosales-Lambert worked for the police department in Fort Smith, Ark., for five years. She has an associate degree in police science and has additional training in forensic interviewing. She has worked as a forensic interviewer and trainer in Oklahoma City for 10 years.

Boan is a graduate of Southwestern Christian University in Bethany and has a master of human relations degree from the University of Oklahoma. She has been a forensic interviewer since 2004.

Many of the interviews are with juveniles in cases with alleged sexual and physical abuse or neglect or with children who are witnesses to crimes.

"These cases are difficult because often it is just the child against an adult," Rosales-Lambert said.

Dealing with juveniles requires special skills.

"As a forensic interviewer you have to withhold all of your natural emotions," Boan said. "You are providing that friendly voice and making them feel natural without reaching out. We do not want to be someone in uniform or authority that is cold and threatening."

Oklahoma Interviewing Services also provides a neutral and safe environment for interviews with children. …