July 20, 2008

More Money Needed to Start Training to Fight Child Abuse

By Dan Springer, La Crosse Tribune, Wis.

Jul. 20--Organizers of a statewide child abuse training center in La Crosse are still looking for the funds needed to start the program.

Fundraising for Finding Words Wisconsin kicked off a year ago in hopes of having the first group of Wisconsin professionals trained in 2008. But the startup date has been delayed because the group has not been able to come up with the $100,000 needed to start the program, La Crosse police Sgt. Dave Schatzley said.

"Times are tough, and the local effort has fallen short of its fundraising goal to be able to pay for the one-time start-up costs to become certified," Schatzley said. "We need about another $40,000 to achieve our goal."

Finding Words Wisconsin is a training program that teaches social workers, prosecutors and law enforcement investigators the best practices in prosecution of child abusers and conducting forensic interviews of children.

Last summer, La Crosse was named the head of Wisconsin's statewide training program by the National Child Protection Training Center in Winona, Minn.

The plan was to raise the money needed to send a group of professionals to learn how to teach the Finding Words curriculum to other professionals in the state. Several training sessions would be held in La Crosse each year, Schatzley said.

There are 17 states with statewide organizations set up to coordinate the training, and Victor Vieth, director of the National Child Protection Training Center, said the time is long past for Wisconsin to get on board to improve the way child abuse is investigated in the state.

"La Crosse is a logical vehicle for teaching the Finding Words curriculum," Vieth said. "There is a great deal of enthusiasm among the professionals in La Crosse. It has great convention facilities and is a beautiful location."

Vieth said center staff and La Crosse area professionals already work together in a variety of ways, and being a short drive from training programs would be an added benefit to center staff.

Most of all, Vieth said, the state needs to begin training its professionals how to use a program that improves the way investigations are conducted.

Use of the Finding Words skills would do more than convict offenders, Vieth said: It also teaches interview techniques that can be used with sexual abuse victims as young as 3, Vieth said.

The local program is sponsored by La Crosse County Human Services, the La Crosse Police Department and the La Crosse County District attorney's office.

Dan Springer can be reached at (608) 796-0432 or at [email protected]


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