Island children who are victims of sexual and physical assault will be able to conduct interviews with trained experts on the Island for the first time under a new agreement between Vineyard and mainland organizations.

Children’s Cove, the child advocacy center for the Cape and islands, will conduct forensic interviews for children at Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, according to the agreement signed on June 7.

Children previously had to travel to Barnstable for the interviews, and officials hope the new arrangement will ease the travel burden for families already under an immense amount of stress.

“We’re really trying to reduce those barriers,” said Jacob Stapledon, the community engagement and education program manager at Children’s Cove.

Forensic interviews are done by child advocacy professionals, often to be used for child protective cases and criminal investigations. The interviews are victim-focused and done in child-friendly settings to allow for children to go through one comprehensive interview for the multiple agencies involved in these types of investigations, limiting the number of times victims have to relive the potentially traumatic event.

In the last fiscal year, Children’s Cove conducted 217 forensic interviews, about 10 per cent of which were Vineyard children.

“It’s a very stressful event for a child and family,” said Beth Folcarelli, the CEO of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services. “To have to travel off-Island to Barnstable to complete the interview adds a burden and hardship.”

Cutting out the ferry and car rides to the Mid-Cape, the interviews will now be done at Martha’s Vineyard Community Service’s CONNECT to End Violence Program offices.

Considerations to allow interviews on-Island started after a recent expansion at the community services, Ms. Folcarelli said.

Children’s Cove and CONNECT have collaborated for years in coordinating services for children and non-offending families. A new interview room, observation area for officials and a family waiting room have all been set up for the new services.

The development was also seen as a positive by law enforcement officials, said Edgartown police chief Bruce McNamee.

Going through the logistics of off-Island travel was a “terrific burden” for families, and a headache for police departments that would lose officers for the day. Having the program based on the Vineyard could enable stronger prosecutions for these kinds of cases, he said.

“To have this now in our backyard is a game changer,” Mr. McNamee said.