Bradford R. Fenocchio
PLACER COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY
10810 Justice Center Drive, Suite 240
Roseville, California 95678
For Immediate Release
Date: April 20, 2009
Public information Officer
Acting Assistant District Attorney
When the Placer County District Attorney’s Office moved to a new building in Roseville earlier this year, it brought along a partner that had been housed in separate quarters in Auburn.
The Multidisciplinary Interview Center, or MDIC, which consists of trained professionals who interview child victims of sexual abuse or other felony maltreatment, now shares the second floor with the District Attorney’s Office at the Bill Santucci Justice Center, making for an enhanced ability to serve the children of Placer County.
“Before, we operated in a small caretaker’s house at the DeWitt Center,” Fiona Tuttle, MDIC coordinator, said. “Our offices at the Santucci Center are much roomier and are connected with the D.A.’s Office. This is a much more professional feel.”
Until the move in late January, employees of the two entities either had to make a long walk or take a short ride in a vehicle through the DeWitt Center to get to each other’s offices.
The new location in Roseville has also provided better access for the public, officials feel. The relocation of the offices and Placer County courtrooms was made primarily to accommodate a larger and continually-growing population in south Placer County.
With that growth has come an increase in the reports of child abuse.
In the past three years, MDIC has interviewed 430 children, including a record number 160 in 2008. In 2000, MDIC interviewed 94 children.
Nationally, an estimated 794,000 children were abused or neglected in 2007, according to Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund. Of those reports, 1,760 children died, Edelman wrote in the Huffington Post, an Internet newspaper.
“The statistics are shocking,” she wrote in an article about April being National Child Abuse Prevention Month. “A child is abused or neglected every 40 seconds.”
Edelman wrote that only slightly more than 60 percent of maltreated children received any services after an initial investigation in 2007.
In Placer County, the MDIC and KidsFirst, formerly the Child Abuse Prevention Council Placer (CAPC), are trying to provide more services for children.
“We’re in the process of linking our client families directly from the interviews to other services being offered,” Kathleen Shenk, KidsFirst deputy director, said. “We’re trying to make sure children and their families receive support at a very difficult time.”
The MDIC was created in 1992 and teamed with the District Attorney, law enforcement agencies, CAPC, Placer County Child Protective Services and other related agencies to investigate cases in which sexual abuse against children was alleged. Victims have ranged from two years old to 18 years old.
In its new office in Roseville, the MDIC features a family waiting area, a victim’s service area, two interview rooms and two conference rooms. Such items as dolls, toys and coloring books are made available so that children can feel comfortable.
“We try to put the children at ease because kids don’t really like talking about abuse,” Tuttle said. “There are some very private and horrible things that they have to verbalize.”
In some cases, the children may choose to demonstrate the sexual abuse they have suffered by using dolls or drawing pictures.
Evidence from these interviews has allowed the District Attorney’s Office to proceed with prosecution in many cases of abuse.
“The District Attorney’s Office puts a real value in the child victims,” Tuttle said. “The children are such a vulnerable group.”
Suzanne Gazzaniga, senior deputy district attorney, said her office appreciates the partnership with the MDIC.
She called the working relationship “a critical step in providing the best possible investigations and prosecutions of the most horrific crimes committed against children.”