Avoiding Pitfalls in the Prosecution of Child Sexual Abuse Cases, July 18 Webinar →

Welcome to the 3rd Annual National Forensic Interviewers Week! We are excited to announce the recipients for this year’s Guardify Awards! Take a look at our awards announcement here and join us as we congratulate our award recipients, and all nominees.

fi of the year

Rachel Mitchell

Hunt County Children’s Advocacy Center, TX

“Rachel is hands-down the best forensic interviewer I have ever had the pleasure of working with. She in mindful and intentional in every interview. Rachel works tirelessly to accommodate every need of the children that arrive at our center and our multidisciplinary team. Being a small children’s advocacy center, our staff often has to wear multiple hats and fulfill multiple roles. Rachel is always happy to help in any way she can, no matter how heavy her workload is. Rachel has also provided on call services for other CAC’s when they have been short handed or without an interviewer because no matter where a child lives, or what jurisdiction, every child deserves to receive the highest level of professional care at any time. Rachel provides a safe environment for children to use their words and tell about their experience. She is always mindful of the child’s needs and ensures the team places these needs above anything else. Rachel is highly trained and is persistent in obtaining ongoing training and reviewing relevant research regarding forensic interviewing, disclosure processes, child maltreatment, grooming, and perpetrator dynamics to increase her knowledge and skills and provide the best services possible to the child victims. Rachel performs over 50 forensic interviews most months and is always happy to be at work. She is very passionate about the missions of Children’s Advocacy Centers. Rachel is a vital member of our Multidisciplinary Team and has shown an incredible level of insight while working with the team. She exudes patience, empathy, and support for every family and team member.  Rachel is thorough and intentional every single day, with every single interview and meeting. Rachel is communicative, tenacious, and organized. She has been instrumental in adapting our center’s practices to ensure every child receives every service necessary. Rachel ensures our multidisciplinary team relations are strong, cohesive, and collaborative with every single case. Rachel also dedicates hours each month to volunteer work for our center’s fundraising efforts as well as volunteering at other community nonprofits. She was born and raised in Hunt County and cares deeply about our community and prevention efforts. Rachel represents our center and community with the utmost professionalism and is an outstanding Forensic Interviewer.

There have been multiple crimes against children cases that Rachel has been instrumental in gathering statement evidence that has lead to felony convictions. In one particular case, the child had been previously forensically interviewed and the case had been stagnant because the disclosure was seen as too ambiguous for prosecution. After completing a subsequent forensic interview with Rachel, to allow for the child to work through her disclosure process, the child was able to give her experience in more clear terms to allow for felony charges to be clear. Rachel Mitchell worked with the investigators involved in the case and discussed normal disclosure processes with the team to help the MDT and eventually the jury understand the complex world of child abuse and how disclosure is a process and not an event. Child Protection Investigations was able to get the child away from her perpetrator and Law Enforcement was able to make an arrest. The suspect was found guilty for the assault, the child was able to receive therapeutic services and live in a safe home, and justice was received.

In the complex world of child abuse, Rachel helps victims find their voice and facilitates a united front with cohesive multidisciplinary team efforts.”

child advocacy leader

Brittany Brooks

Barren River CAC, KY

“Brittany has been a child advocate for over six years at the Barren River Area Child Advocacy Center. Her commitment to the children she serves is unwavering. Brittany meets each child she serves exactly where they are, ensuring they know she will be a constant in the midst of all the unpredictability surrounding them. I have watched countless times the sense of empowerment and bravery rise up in a child as Brittany attentively listens and holds space for them during some of their darkest moments. Child advocacy is not your typical 8-hour work day job. I have worked numerous after-hours and weekend cases with Brittany, to which she eagerly jumps in to triage the child’s needs. Brittany’s advocacy approach encompasses not only giving voice to the child’s needs, but also the needs of the caregiver(s) because Brittany sees the larger picture and understands how empowering caregivers dramatically impacts the healing journey of the child. When Brittany first begins working with a child, she uses her own voice to advocate for that child, but as she builds that relationship one trust moment at a time, she leads the child to rediscovering the strength and power in their own voice. Brittany truly is a champion for the child and her servant heart offers immense hope to our most vulnerable children.

Brittany will always be the first one to shy away from any sort of recognition or spotlight; she truly lives out her belief that nothing should take the focus away from the child. Therefore, there aren’t any news articles or videos highlighting or applauding her work. However, I have several first-hand experiences I can share to demonstrate why she is deserving of this award. The first example I have happened just a couple days before Christmas when a sibling group of two was brought to our Center by law enforcement as a result of being severely physically abused by their father. During Brittany’s initial meeting with these kiddos and their mom, she learned that the kids’ dad had not only abused them, but he had also fled with all their Christmas gifts that mom had saved for months to purchase. Prioritizing their most pressing needs, Brittany ensured the safety of mom and the children and directly connected mom with local resources for basic necessities – but Brittany’s initial work didn’t stop there. Brittany spent the next two days collaborating with Toys for Tots and several local churches so that this mom and her kiddos would not go without gifts on Christmas morning. Another example demonstrating Brittany’s immeasurable impact on the children she serves, involves a 16 y/o who had been raped for years by a family member. This case came in as an emergency in the middle of the night and to no one’s surprise Brittany arrived at the Center first to meet this terrified teenage girl. Brittany worked intensely with this victim – helping her cultivate bravery, resiliency and a sense of purpose as this teenage girl healed from within. When the victim turned 18, by our Center’s protocol, Brittany’s advocacy should have ended as we are by definition a child advocacy center and do not serve adults. However, knowing this victim’s case was soon going to trial, despite the victim becoming an adult, Brittany maintained their relationship and continued to be a trusted resource to her. There were only a select few people this victim requested to be in the courtroom with her when she testified against her own dad for the abuse he committed against her – Brittany was one of those people. What a full circle moment to have the advocate who spent years using their voice to fiercely advocate for you sit in the gallery of the courtroom while you the victim now use your reclaimed voice to advocate for justice for yourself from the witness stand. That’s the immeasurable lifelong impact Brittany has on children as their advocate.”

champ for children

Regina Dismuke

Hero House CAC, GA

“Regina has dedicated her life to helping children. She spent the majority of her career working for the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services, serving in all different types of roles from child abuse investigator to director. Upon retirement she became the director of the fledgling Hero House CAC, serving children in Colquitt County, Georgia, and the surrounding counties. The CAC was woefully underfunded, had almost no facilities, and needed serious updating of equipment. Through her leadership, and her love of children, she, along with a board of directors who stand solidly behind her, have made the Hero House a true gem of service in our community.

We are currently constructing  more soundproof room to be able to hear the child victims testimony. Future plans are to construct an entire new center. She has earned the respect of her peers, and is a trusted resource for the prosecution community. She goes above and beyond the call of duty, each and every day. She has helped hundreds of children, and families, in our community. She coordinates the toy drive every year that makes sure children of abuse have a good Christmas. She is a true servant at heart and a fierce protector of abused children.”

child advocacy partner

Nick Hefner

Haywood County Sheriff’s Department, NC

“Detective Nick Hefner truly embodies the definition of someone who has demonstrated exceptional dedication in furthering the objectives of justice and healing. Detectives Hefner has been a special investigator less than five years and has truly impacted the lives of many children. He requested to work a role that is often declined given the emotional nature of the work. Detective Hefner has advocated for efforts to engage new deputies who are interested in this work. Hefner takes his role incredibly serious and is a huge advocate for the child advocacy center in the community. Hefner is one of few detectives who will just stop by to visit, check-in, and truly engage with staff. Detective Hefner utilizes his resources available to him, engages with professionals who have more expertise to learn, and spends valuable time with children and families. Detective Hefner currently has three pending criminal cases that all have the potential for life in prison, if convicted. Detective Hefner pursues corroborative evidence, is a team player, and provides an incredible amount of humor to often dark situations. He spends countless hours researching and pursuing opportunities for justice. Our team is INCREDIBLY proud of Detective Hefner and are incredibly supportive of every effort to recognize his efforts to go above and beyond for the children in our county. I honestly cannot say enough great things about the efforts, time, and commitment he puts into his investigations.

During the course of two investigations, Detective Hefner was made aware of that both children were fearful of the alleged perpetrators. Without anyone else’s knowledge, Hefner collaborated with the jail supervisor and requested one family come to the jail. Then, the supervisor and Det. Hefner walked with the child around the outside of the jail to show the child that the offender would be unable to escape. The other child was met by Det. Hefner at the agency prior to a therapy session. Detective Hefner spent over an hour with this child. He learned about the child’s fear of nothing being done and the alleged offender getting out of jail.  Detective Hefner spent time sharing about the investigative process and answered all of the child’s questions. These are two of the many examples of why Detective Hefner should receive this award.”


And congratulations to all of the nominees!

Elisa Adolphsen – Washington

Faith Akins – South Carolina
Mary Autrey – North Carolina
Kristen (Kit) Barr – Missouri
Ashlea Belcher – Missouri
Aryanna Bell – Tennessee
Olivia Blablo – North Carolina
Stephanie Briggs – Massachusetts
Brittany Brooks – Kentucky
Charles Broussard – Louisiana
Jason Burns – Texas
Brandi Cannon – Arkansas
Eunice Carasas McIntosh – Florida
Tracey Childress – Arkansas
Heidi Clossin – Indiana
Jana Cooley – Mississippi
Karla Cordero – Oklahoma
Megan Cunningham – Texas
Adrienne Cushman – California
Ashley Danna – Texas
Mia Davis – Alabama
Gabrielle Dennis – Arkansas
Cari Dickson-Allen – Oregon
Regina Dismuke – Georgia
Kalyn Eddy – Alabama
Aaron Ellenberger – Ohio
Elizabeth Espinoza – Nevada
Thomas Findlay – Oregon
Michele Fischer – Pennsylvania
Deborah Flowers – North Carolina
Channing Franklin – Tennessee
Kristin Gerritsen – Massachusetts
Trisha Glenn – Washington
Samantha Gray – South Carolina
Jodi Green – Virginia
Brandon Gurganus – Texas
Bibiana Gutierrez – Texas
Kaliko Harris – Louisiana
Cliff Harris – Texas
Brandi Harvey – Kentucky
Nick Hefner – North Carolina
Taylor Helms – North Carolina
Indira Heredia – New Mexico
Bernadette Hernandez-Yupit – Texas
Riley Herrin – Mississippi
Kira Hietala – New Hampshire
Lindsey Honea – Tennessee
Sarah Horne – North Carolina
Logan Hough – North Carolina
Kelly Hunckler – Indiana
Hope Hunter – Louisiana
Danielle Jones – Louisiana
Emily Joyner – North Carolina
Kim Keever – Texas
Deandrea King – California
Cherelle King – Louisiana
Katie Krueger – Michigan
Allie Lambert – West Virginia
Rachael Larson – Alaska
Teresa Lutke – Michigan
Jana Mahmens – Iowa
Makenzie Mantz – Nebraska
Jillian Martin – Illinois
Brittany Matthews – Texas
Amber McNutt – Nebraska
Emily McWilliams – New Mexico
Katherine Meehan – New Mexico
Janetta Michaels – Texas
Alethea Miller – Maryland
Candice Miller – North Carolina
Rachel Mitchell – Texas
Richard Morales – Texas
Jenna Moseman – Maryland
Kimberly Mudd-Fegett – Kentucky
Jimmy Nash – Missouri
Dianne Nordeen – South Carolina
Taylor Norman – Ohio
Brooklyn Paul – Louisiana
Brad Peck – Iowa
Megan Peterson – Texas
Lacey Pitre – Louisiana
Jennifer Poehlmann – Vermont
Cece Ralston – Tennessee
Steven Ritenour – Florida
Grace Ryan – Missouri
Alma Salinas – Texas
Shannon Shaw – Minnesota
Kylie Shinn – Missouri
Rachael Skipper – South Carolina
Diana Sly – Missouri
Tracy Smith – Missouri
Penny Smith – North Carolina
Virginia Smith – South Carolina
Barbara Stevenson – Texas
Michelle Sturgeon – Alaska
Cheryl Talley – North Carolina
Ashley Thomas – Missouri
Shelley Thomas – Nebraska
Tiffany Thompson – Minnesota
Crystal Thorne – Utah
Christal Tycksen – Missouri
Rebecca Valladares – Iowa
Aubree Vance – Michigan
Annie Waller – Maryland
Rhonda Wells – Ohio
Jewel West – Texas
Frankie Widby – California
Morgan Wilkerson – Texas
Zachery Worsham – Alabama
Catie Young – South Carolina
Jennifer Zaccagnino – Georgia
Karen Zambrano – New Jersey
Jana Zuelzke – Alabama

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