PA Children & Youth Solicitors Association Announce PA as 17th ChildFirst State

PA State Police Agree to Host ChildFirst Program at Five Facilities throughout Commonwealth

Harrisburg – Pennsylvania Children & Youth Solicitors Association announce that this week Pennsylvania received its certification and became the 17th ChildFirst state.

President of the Pennsylvania Children & Youth Solicitors Association, Joyce Hatfield-Wise, explains that, “In 2009, our Association completed the application process and made the financial and personal commitment to bring the ChildFirst program to Pennsylvania. ChildFirst Pennsylvania is designed to strengthen the investigation and prosecution of child abuse. The Association is bringing this nationally recognized program to Pennsylvania to train members of the multi-disciplinary team in the forensic interviewing of children.”

ChildFirst began over 12 years ago as the vision of Victor Vieth of the National Child Protection Training Center ( and CornerHouse. ChildFirst trains multi-disciplinary team members (prosecutors, law enforcement, CYS caseworkers, CYS solicitors, and forensic interviewers) a protocol for forensic interviews of children suspected of being victims of child abuse. The first ChildFirst Pennsylvania training was held at Messiah College in March 2011.

Hatfield-Wise explains that, “At the core of ChildFirst Pennsylvania is the ChildFirst Doctrine where the child is our first priority.”

“When our Association learned about ChildFirst and we were approached by the Solicitors to collaborate in bringing it to Pennsylvania, the decision was not a difficult one. We are proud to be a collaborative partner of ChildFirst Pennsylvania. To date we have had a dozen of our prosecutors complete the program,” said Dauphin County District Attorney Edward M. Marsico, Jr., Immediate-Past President of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association. Marsico indicated that he anticipates that many more prosecutors will achieve ChildFirst Pennsylvania certification in the coming years.

Jason Kutulakis, of Abom and Kutulakis, is the immediate Past-President of the Solicitors Association and current member of the Governor’s Task Force on Child Abuse. Hatfield-Wise and Kutulakis spearheaded the process of making ChildFirst Pennsylvania a reality today.

“The primary concept in ChildFirst Training is to focus on how children communicate. As adults, we often seek to have children interact with us on our terms. In contrast, ChildFirst Training directs the participants to understand the language and thought processes of a child,” Kutulakis said.

There are multiple variables that effect how children disclose facts surrounding their abuse including age, developmental stages, relationship with the perpetrator, trauma of the abuse, fear, shame, consequences for the perpetrator, whether there is person of authority the child can trust and whether the child even recognizes the situation as abuse. By developing this protocol, ChildFirst Pennsylvania will prevent victims from having to be interviewed several times.

“It’s a one stop shop interview so the child is not subjected to multiple interviews and by doing that and having a skilled interview we can get the information from the child in a safe manner.” The interview is electronically recorded and observed via closed-circuit television by the members of the multi-disciplinary team,” Kutulakis explained.


This week the Pennsylvania State Police entered into a formal agreement with the Pennsylvania Children and Youth Solicitors Association to host the ChildFirst Pennsylvania program at the Pennsylvania State Police Academy and their four regional training centers throughout the Commonwealth.


“We are proud to Partner with ChildFirst Pennsylvania and to have Corporal Philip J. Duffy and Trooper Jeremy Matas as faculty of ChildFirst Pennsylvania,” said Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan.


The ChildFirst Pennsylvania faculty are: Joyce Hatfield-Wise, Jason Kutulakis, PA State Police Corporal Philip J. Duffy, PA State Police Trooper Jeremy Matas, Brian Bornman, Maryann Grec, Cindy Sonne, Elizabeth Pitts, Kimberly Calahan, Kimberly Duffy, Dawn Smitley, Nicholas Ranney and Jodi Lashley.


The next ChildFirst Pennsylvania training will be held in September 2012 at the Southwest Training Center in Greensburg. Another training will take place in October 2012, at the Pennsylvania State Police Training Academy in Hershey.


For more information about the ChildFirst visit or


Visit the Pennsylvania State Police online at


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