Sue Lewis Serves Her Local Community — One Interview at a Time
Clackamas County resident Sue Lewis is passionate about helping her local community — and her specialized skills and more than 20 years of experience as a forensic interviewer provide her with a unique platform for doing so.
For the past seven years, Lewis has served as the Child Interviewer Supervisor at Children’s Center — Clackamas County’s sole Child Abuse Intervention Center. For two decades (at a number of different organizations), she’s conducted forensic interviews — listening and asking questions and having conversations in a friendly yet neutral way with suspected child victims of neglect or abuse. This, she says, is the first step in a child’s healing — so they are not burdened by their secret. According to Lewis, it is also the most rewarding part of her job because “each child is unique and has their own history.”
While the children are speaking with Lewis, a Family Support Specialist staff member typically meets with the parents or caregivers to provide resources that support the whole family, which is also essential to the healing process. Treatment recommendations regarding health and safety are made based upon the entire evaluation, and the Family Support Specialist remains a resource for as long as the family needs.
“Our clinical team is a closely connected group, and we regularly ensure that we remain up-to-date on best practices in the field and are trauma-informed, while also recognizing the importance of work-life balance to keep us healthy to avoid burnout and vicarious trauma,” said Lewis.
Lewis began developing a love for the work she does over twenty years ago — as a student in the Master of Social Work program at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. There, she held an internship with Duke’s Child Advocacy Center, which soon led to a position as a forensic interviewer in Raleigh, NC at the local hospital.
Since then, she’s seen the field evolve in many ways, especially through the development of best practices and guidelines to ensure that professionals are conducting the most trauma-informed — yet forensically sound — interviews for the children. Before Child Advocacy Centers (like Children’s Center) existed, the forensic interviewing of children was left to law enforcement professionals and district attorneys who were not trained in child development or trauma-informed practices. The expertise Lewis and other forensic interviewers bring to this work help to ensure that children are well cared for, heard, and believed right from the start of the process with the judicial system.
Lewis uses her many years of experience and depth of knowledge as a faculty member teaching best practice to other professionals around the state through the Oregon Child Forensic Interviewer training.
“Our collective respect for Sue is mirrored by widespread admiration from throughout the state. Whenever I use the words ‘Forensic Interviewer’ in outside company, I’m sure to hear the name ‘Sue Lewis’ in the next breath. Her reputation as both a trainer and practitioner in Oregon is unsurpassed” said Children’s Center Executive Director Tom Soma.
Lewis is a vital member of the Children’s Center team. “Sue continues to grace us all with her steady, positive, dedicated approach to both her work and colleagues,” said Soma.
Children’s Center is truly special. In the words of Lewis, “It is a special place to work due to the level of commitment and professionalism of all the staff — whether their specialty is working directly with the children and families or the community at large — the staff here are dedicated to the cause.”