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The Kansan - Newton, KS
  • Heart to Heart welcomes new faces

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  • By Jenna Quentin Newton Kansan Two caring hearts have been added to the Newton Heart 2 Heart Child Advocacy Center. Beth Tuszynski and Meagan Waltner were hired this fall as family advocates. Executive Director Marlene Lemmer Beeson discussed the importance of family advocates on their multi-discipline team. She said Tuszynski and Waltner have many valuable skills. Others on the team include law enforcement, Department of Children and Families, school counselors, medical and mental health professionals, specialists in sexual assault and cognitive behavioral therapy, and a chaplain. After her graduate degree, Beth Tuszynski began working in higher education counseling. She then worked with the chronically mentally ill, saying with a smile that she found it easier than working with college students. She raised a family of four sons, then adopted two children with traumatic pasts. Tuszynski quickly realized she need to learn how to adapt her parenting to their needs. She began learning about trauma and early brain development, reactive attachment disorder and post-trauma complexes at retreats and seminars. She has worked with the Harvey County Community Partnership and teaches an Active Parenting class by Dr. Michael H. Popkin. Meagan Waltner completed a Masters degree in Social Work from Wichita State University. She explained that as a family advocate, she visits with parents during children's forensic interviews. Waltner explains the resources available, answers questions and hears their side of the story. Then if an interviewer wishes to speak to the parents, the family advocate can play and bond with a child, encouraging them to feel at ease and safe at the center. Waltner works mainly from the McPherson office and has a blended family of four children. Both Tuszynski and Waltner will complete a minimum of 40 hours of training in forensic interviewing, scheduled for February in El Dorado. The interviews are done with children in a specially equipped room, with cameras, a one-way window to a recording room. An easel with drawing paper is provided for the child to tell their story. Director Beeson said that a forensic interviewing is really an art—a specific set of skills, that needs to be learned and practiced frequently. She said it will be helpful to have more staff with these capabilities. It is important to look at which person on the investigative team is the best to do this crucial interview, deciding with whom the child has a good rapport. How you ask a question can make or break a case. The goal of the team is “to investigate and follow through to keep a child safe and prosecute the perpetrator” said Beeson. There is also specialized and advanced training available at seminars and conferences, Beeson explained. These continuing education opportunities are valuable, even after many years in the field, since their work is research-based and ever-evolving. She said it is not enough to have someone who is nice, kind and a good listener—there is a lot of training that goes into being a family or child advocate. “I'm blessed to be chosen for this position,” said Tuszynski. “It's hard to listen to what a child has gone through. But you do what you need to to help a child.” Heart to Heart is accredited with the National Children's Alliance and is one of 16 child advocacy centers in Kansas.
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