Three little boys crouch on the ground. The boy in front is smiling and resting his chin in his hands. The boy on the right has his hand to his mouth. The boy on the left is resting his chin in his hands.

Case Study: How a Rare Language Interpreter Helped a Child Find Their Voice

About Gulf Coast Kid’s House

Gulf Coast Kid’s House is a children’s advocacy center in Pensacola, Florida. This nonprofit center combines all of the professionals and resources needed for the intervention, investigation, and prosecution of child abuse cases under one child-friendly facility. The goal of Gulf Coast Kid’s House is to form a more collaborative response to child abuse cases to minimize the trauma to the children and their families

When the struggle to communicate is real

As a part of her job, Cheryl, Senior Case Coordinator at Gulf Coast Kid’s House, performs forensic interviews with children about incidents of alleged abuse or other violent crimes.

The information she collects in these interviews is used to make a determination on the allegation; when properly performed, they also hold up in court. 

Therefore, accurate, clear communication is critical — something that’s impossible to achieve if there’s a language barrier.

In one particular case, the language Cheryl needed wasn’t widely spoken in the U.S., and she struggled to find an interpreter.

Related: Rare Languages: A Deeper Dive into CLI’s Recent Additions

A desperate call points Cheryl in the right direction

Cheryl attempted to secure an interpreter from two different agencies but was unable to. Both agencies didn’t have the language she needed. At this point, she didn’t know where to turn. 

“My fear, my biggest fear, was, because of the inability to properly speak to the child, there was more going on than anybody knew,” stated Cheryl. “My job is to get the details right, and I couldn’t do that because I couldn’t talk with the child.

She called one of the interpreting agencies a second time. Luckily, she connected with an interpreter who could help. 

“She [the interpreter] was really, really wonderful. She explained to me things I didn’t know [about the region and language], and she knew ONE PERSON who spoke the language.”

That individual happened to contract with CLI.

Cheryl called us right away and talked with Keturah in client relations. 

To Cheryl’s delight, Keturah confirmed that we did have an interpreter in the language Cheryl was looking for.

A complete and utter win

After connecting with the interpreter at the scheduled time, Cheryl joined the foster family and child, at which time the interpreter said hello and introduced himself. 

When the child heard their native language, they lit up. 

They “just grinned the biggest, happiest, happiest smile,” said Cheryl.

She was able to complete the interview and gather the details that were lacking because of the language barrier. 

“Being a forensic interviewer, when you use an interpreter, you’re giving up control. I felt comfortable, and I felt like what I asked the interpreter to do was carried out. I would encourage other forensic interviewers who are looking for languages to give your company a try. I had a very positive experience,” Cheryl went on. “It was a complete and utter win.

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