When psychologist Earl B.H. Sutherland Jr., PhD, decided he didn’t like the way forensic interviews in child abuse cases on the Crow
and Northern Cheyenne Reservations were being
conducted, he didn’t complain. He took action.
Forensic investigators would interview children
as a way of gathering evidence for prosecuting
perpetrators. But once they were finished, that was
often that: The children wouldn’t necessarily get
treatment, explains Sutherland, behavioral health
director at the Crow/Northern Cheyenne Indian
Health Service Hospital in Montana. “I felt we were
opening children up through the forensic process —
for a very good reason — but then we were walking
away,” he says.
When Sutherland realized that he needed the
same information to treat children as the forensic
investigators needed to prosecute abusers, he came up
with an alternative model. After getting an OK from the
assistant U.S. attorney and FBI in the area, he sought
training and certification in forensic interviewing. In
2007, he established the Child and Adolescent Referral
and Evaluation Center at the hospital.
When an abused child comes to the center,
Sutherland interviews him or her in a way that
satisfies the need to gather evidence and the
need to diagnose the child and come up with an
effective treatment plan. Law enforcement and child
protective services representatives observe the
interviews in real time through closed-circuit TV,
Earl B.H. Sutherland Jr. revamped
the process for forensic interviews
to make sure that abused children
get the treatment they need.
BY REBECCA A. CLAY