On May 24, 1996, the Eappen family of Boston, Massachusetts welcomed their new baby boy Matthew “Matty” Eappen into the world. Eight months later, investigators would discover his 19-year-old nanny shook him so violently it fractured his skull causing severe brain bleeding. He died five days later despite intense treatment in the hospital. After his death, Matty’s parents started the Matty Eappen Foundation to bring awareness to Shaken Baby Syndrome and other forms of child abuse. Eight years later in 2005, a committee consisting of Winona County prosecutors, police, social services, and the National Child Protection Training Center joined together to address a growing caseload of child abuse and neglect cases in the area. The committee moved forward with procuring donations and established funding, with the help of the Matty Eappen Foundation, to develop what is today Matty’s Place. Since June 2011, Matty’s Place has been a safe place for children and families to receive help and healing after an allegation of abuse.
Matty’s Place, a program at Family & Children’s Center in Winona, MN, is a safe place for children to come and receive a structured interview about possible abuse. The well-trained and experienced staff members of our child advocacy center make children feel comfortable, while reducing the effects of trauma and stress during the investigative phase.
Our mission is to serve children who are reported victims of maltreatment. As part of a regional, multidisciplinary collaborative team that investigates these reports, Matty’s Place strives to preserve the dignity and spirit of the child by assisting, supporting and educating families and the community around us.
Whom we serve:
Child victims of abuse, adults with disabilities and non-offending caregivers
What happens at Matty’s Place:
Families and children are referred either by law enforcement or child protective services due to allegations of child abuse. The children and caregivers will be greeted by staff and guided into the family room.
A trained interviewer will greet the child and caregiver before the interview takes place. After greeting the child, the forensic interviewer will bring the child into the forensic interview room to start the interview.
During the interview, the only two that will be in the interview room are the forensic interviewer and the child. In the room next door, the rest of the multidisciplinary team will watch the interview in real-time.
During the interview, the caregiver will meet with a family advocate either in the family room or the conference room.
After the forensic interview, your child will be brought back into the family room. The caregiver, family advocate and any additional MDT will meet in the conference room to describe the next steps in investigating the allegations.
Explanation of a forensic interview:
Matty’s Place works with a multidisciplinary team (MDT) on each case. Our MDT consists of law enforcement, child protective services, county attorney’s office, a forensic interviewer, and a family advocate. The team works together by interviewing the child one time with all parties present in an effort to minimize trauma of disclosing abuse. The coordination of the team improves investigation and prosecution while making sure the child receives effective, sensitive and immediate support. The ChildFirst protocol is used to obtain detailed information about a possible event that the child experienced. This information is gathered as part of an investigation in collaboration with the multidisciplinary team. The forensic interviewer is trained on how to talk to children about difficult situations and acts in the best interest of the child. The interview is child-sensitive, non-threatening and structured to help the child talk about what happened to them. The forensic interviewer screens for all types of maltreatment.
Our family advocate is a compassionate, specially trained professional, who provides support to families in a way that fits each family’s needs. We are there to support and answer any questions that a caregiver may have. Our family advocate helps the caregiver understand the process of the forensic interview and assesses the needs of the family firsthand. Our family advocate provides information about abuse, how it may affect the child and the family, and how to support a child who has been abused. We work with many individuals in the community and are able to make referrals for the child and family members. This individual can be as involved or uninvolved as a non-offending caregiver wants. Some common tasks of our family advocate are: help fill out paperwork, assess the child’s safety, help the caregiver understand the process of an investigation, provide referrals to therapists or other community resources, provide advocacy during court trials, update families on the investigation, help set up medical appointments pertaining to investigation, etc.
Frequently Asked Questions:
How do I prepare my child for a forensic interview?
* Tell your child they will be visiting a safe, comfortable place to speak with a person whose job it is to talk with kids/teenagers
* Give your child permission to talk with the interviewer
* Tell your child it is okay to talk about anything, even if they have never told you before
* Have your child be well rested
* Ask your child questions about the allegations
* Tell your child what to say
* Promise treats or rewards to your child for talking
* Try to answer questions for which you don’t know the answers
Can I sit in on the interview?
Unfortunately, Matty’s Place policy does not allow for caregivers to sit in during the interview. We assure you that our forensic interviewer is a trained professional whose primary goal is to ensure a child’s safety.
What if something actually happened and my child doesn’t disclose anything?
Matty’s Place staff will never force a child to talk if they do not want to. Your child is talking to a new person about a significant event, which is not an easy process. Our biggest suggestion is to get them into therapy and let them disclose when they feel the time is right.
Why is the interview being recorded?
This limits the number of times a child has to talk about the significant incident that happened to them which can decrease the potential trauma associated with multiple interviews. If the case were to follow up and go to court, this recording limits the amount of information a child needs to tell, if they are subpoenaed for court. The video also shows the child’s age at the time of the disclosure. Every interview Matty’s Place conducts will be recorded and preserved in a digital archive. The only individuals who receive a copy of the forensic interview are the investigators, social workers and the district attorney’s office.
Can I get a copy of the Forensic interview?
If you would like a copy of the forensic interview, you need to contact law enforcement. It is up to them if they are willing to share that information during the investigation.
What if my child starts talking to me about the situation before the interview?
* Stay calm and neutral when talking to your child
* Pay close attention to your words and actions. Show interest in what your child says and do not react with shock, horror or indifference.
* Don’t offer names of possible offenders or possible acts of abuse
* Listen to the information, but don’t ask for all of the details
* Support the child at that given time with their emotional needs.
* Allow your child to tell in his/her own way and in his/her own time
* Let your child know that you believe what he/she is telling you
* Tell your child that it is not his/her fault and that he/she is not in trouble
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For more information, please call us at the Family & Children’s Center – 507-453-9563