Honoring a True Ordinary Hero – Karen Blackstone

Twenty Years in the Making

by Elizabeth Shackelford

I do not even know where to begin when talking about Karen Blackstone, who will celebrate 20 years with the Children’s Safety Center on Sept. 1st. How is it possible? I cannot even wrap my head around how many young lives she has been a part of: as a volunteer, an intern, a child advocate and, for the last 16 years, the CSC’s full-time forensic interviewer (she has conducted more than 4,000 interviews). For 20 years, thousands of children have put their trust in her. Children and families have relied on her for support as a child advocate. Children have shared their deepest, darkest traumatic experiences with her as a forensic interviewer.

As we celebrate Karen this week, I know she wants us to also celebrate the children who have received support and healed from their abuse. I know she wants us to stop at the end of the day and take away something we learned or experienced along the way. As I write this I can even hear her saying, “What was the takeaway you learned, Elizabeth?”

Like the saying goes, “To know Karen is to love Karen.” It is evident not just from the families she helped over the years but also from all the professional colleagues she worked with. Following are a few comments and notes from individuals who have known and worked with Karen:

Karen is a very humble, helpful, and loyal person, a true inspiration. ~ Dan Prier, CSC Board Member

Karen – How fortunate we are that you are still a part of the CSC and without any loss of enthusiasm or commitment after twenty years. I have relied on your insight and wisdom, your stability and leadership, and your humility and character since day number one. You’ve welcomed my questions, been an excellent listener, and always been thoughtful and genuine in your comments. I trust your judgment because I know that when you give an answer, you’ve considered it first. Thank you for your investment in children, in our community, and in bringing professionals and agencies together to make us better. So many have reaped the benefits of your hard work. Kudos to you! And here’s to another 20!! ~ Dana Scott, Victim Assistance Program Director, Washington County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office

Karen is a true servant to children. Her dedication over the years and the excellent work she has provided the center and our community is immeasurable. Karen is a true advocate and warrior for the children who have been victims of abuse. It is an honor to be a small part of what she does daily. ~ Chris Thornton, CSC Board President

Karen, it’s your day to celebrate! Congratulations on 20 years with the CSC. Your tireless efforts to better protect the children of NWA should be celebrated! You have made an incredible difference in the lives of abused children and it has been a honor to walk along side of you in this journey. Thank you for all you have done!  ~ Rita Farrell, Forensic Interview Specialist, Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center

I began working with Karen Blackstone approximately two years ago. I had recently been assigned crimes against persons and had been told Karen was a great person to bounce ideas off of as well as go to her as a mentor. I watched Karen’s zeal for helping children, families and law enforcement and I knew I had been given great advice to speak with Karen when I was lost or confused about circumstances with a forensic interview. Karen has provided me with multiple resources to continue in my growth as an investigator. Karen has been a great co-worker, mentor, trainer, servant and I am most proud to consider her my friend. Karen’s hard work through the CSC and MDT has not only helped me be a better investigator, she has helped more families and victims than can be measured. I know Karen has taught hundreds of law enforcement investigators over her twenty years; those investigators have reached out and taught thousands of cadets and rookie officers the importance of putting the child first in all that they do. Thank you Karen for your passion, years of service, and your friendship! Congratulations on twenty years serving victims and their families of heinous crimes. ~ Det. Kyle Naish, Springdale Police Department

Karen is quick to give others credit for the strength of the CSC team, but she has helped develop the Children’s Safety Center and the team into who we are today. Karen has been the constant for 20 years who has steered the team in the right direction, through all the many changes and staff members coming and going, making sure the team is always following best practices, proper policies and procedures, and always looking out for the best interest of the child however difficult the days may be.

Thanks for encouraging the team, listening for and identifying important issues, and for coming up with solutions. Thanks for being YOU! We all respect you and we all congratulate you on 20 years of serving others.