#SpotlightSunday w. Michael McHenry

The Ordinary Hero Award was developed by the Children’s Safety Center in 2008, as a way for the members of the Washington County Multi-Disciplinary Team to honor one of their own. The MDT is comprised of Arkansas State Police Crimes Against Children Investigators, local law enforcement, the Washington County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, DHS’s Division of Children & Family Services, and Children’s Safety Center staff.

This past March at our 4th annual Partners + Prevention luncheon we presented the Ordinary Hero Award to Arkansas State Police Crimes Against Children Investigator, Michael McHenry.

Michael is a person who is determined. He has a “firmness of purpose and a resolve to achieve a goal, no matter the obstacles.”

A co-worker of Michael’s shared the following: “Though I haven’t been here long, I have noticed Michael’s dedication to being at every MDT meeting.  He gives detailed, concise information about the cases he is working.  He looks at every angle when investigating cases and is very thorough.  He works well with all agencies.  He genuinely cares and takes to heart the abuse our victims go through.” 

Another MDT member noted, “As a Therapist at the Children’s Safety Center I don’t spend as much time with Michael as some people do but from my experience working with him and seeing him in MDT meetings, Michael truly puts his entire heart into his cases. He invests himself in each and every case to make sure that the children we work with are taken care of and protected. Michael is extraordinary at his job and the children he works with are lucky to have him on their side.”

A colleague told Children’s Safety Center development director, “Michael is so passionate about his job! He puts 110% into each case he works and truly cares for the children involved in these cases. He understands the need and importance of a multidisciplinary team when it comes to his role. He sees the bigger picture for these children and wants all the agencies involved to work together to do their part to serve the victims and their families. I admire the hard work he puts in and the extra mile that he goes each and every day! THANK YOU MICHAEL for continuing to fight for children who don’t have a voice!”

Another description of Michael is, “He goes above and beyond for EVERY case he works. He is not ‘just’ an investigator, but also an advocate for child abuse victims and their non-offender caregivers. It does not go unnoticed by his fellow MDT members, nor the caregivers of the children he advocates for! His passion shines bright and radiates onto others around him. He deserves the Ordinary Hero Award for putting up an extraordinary fight against child abuse!”

Here is Michael in his own words:

How does it feel being chosen as the Children’s Safety Center’s 2019 Ordinary Hero?

I was surprised and deeply honored to accept this year’s award for Ordinary Hero.  I feel that everyone on the MDT team shares the same passion and drive to do hard work in this field.  CACD’s involvement on each case helps everyone on the team, especially DHS, local law enforcement, the prosecutor’s office, and our community.    

A little background and history of you and your job with Arkansas State Police is:

A little background about me is that I joined the ranks of ASP/CACD in January 2018. My duties include being a forensic interviewer for child abuse victims and helping local law enforcement agencies investigate these crimes.  I thoroughly enjoy this field because it is meaningful and rewarding to see cases acted upon very swiftly by multiple agencies, but it is even more amazing to see how information sharing and cooperation between various agencies leads to successful results in every single case.

How do Arkansas State Police and the Children’s Safety Center work together and why is it important?

Successful partnerships between various agencies are always the glue that keeps people focused on the finish line for every case.  Not only does the CSC provide an incredibly trusted resource for victims of child abuse but they also continue to support the family for years.  The CSC was built for a reason, which is to provide a single, safe, neutral entity that children can go to in order for the child to feel safe and supported, but also help the family start to recover and heal from the most traumatic experiences they’ve ever lived through.  Building bridges with every agency and organization in this field is essential to successful results.

What is your favorite thing about the Children’s Safety Center?

My favorite thing about the Children Safety Center is the fact that it employs some of the most devoted individuals in this field that focus on one thing:  helping the child.  Not only this, but the CSC is a central resource for the entire community, providing resources that help families in every aspect of their lives.  I am very thankful for how quickly each advocate and interviewer responds to each case that I work with them.  Without the CSC, I feel that my job would be so much more difficult. 

Why is it important to spread awareness of the mission of the Children’s Safety Center to the community?

In many cases that I work, families are still unaware of what the CSC is and what they do to help the victim and the victim’s family.  Spreading awareness of the mission of what the CSC does every day helps show the victim, their family, and the entire community that no one has to go through this journey alone. 

Fun Fact that people may not know about you:

In 2012, I won an Emmy for a syndicated television show project in Fayetteville that I was a part of that shined light on how drug courts in America help with the ever-growing problem of substance abuse in our local community.  Ever since then, I have continued my interest in the creative field, hoping to one day win an Oscar…stay tuned

Below is Michael’s Ordinary Hero Award acceptance speech:

Something that I would like to start with is a little story by Shel Silverstein, that I’m sure we have all read at some point in our lives:

“I cannot go to school today”
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
“I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash and purple bumps.

My mouth is wet, my throat is dry.
I’m going blind in my right eye.
My tonsils are as big as rocks,
I’ve counted sixteen chicken pox.

And there’s one more – that’s seventeen,
And don’t you think my face looks green?
My leg is cut, my eyes are blue,
It might be the instamatic flu.

I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,
I’m sure that my left leg is broke.
My hip hurts when I move my chin,
My belly button’s caving in.

My back is wrenched, my ankle’s sprained,
My ‘pendix pains each time it rains.
My toes are cold, my toes are numb,

I have a sliver in my thumb.

My neck is stiff, my voice is weak,
I hardly whisper when I speak.
My tongue is filling up my mouth,

I think my hair is falling out.

My elbow’s bent, my spine ain’t straight,
My temperature is one-o-eight.
My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear,

There’s a hole inside my ear.

I have a hangnail, and my heart is …
What? What’s that? What’s that you say?
You say today is ………….. Saturday?

G’bye, I’m going out to play!” 
― Shel Silverstein

Mr. Silverstein may not have fully understood the fact that children are affected by more than just a dry throat and enlarged tonsils.  Some problems are much worse, and don’t allow children to go out and play like they used too…or even allow them to go to a safe home. 

I started in this position a little over a year ago and I have never had a real opportunity to work with children in previous law enforcement positions throughout my entire career.

I can still remember the first child that was interviewed on my first day at work, which I observed at the CSC in Springdale.  He was a young man, about 12 years old, and he had autism.  Throughout the interview with Karen, I noticed that he would not answer a tough question unless he placed his foot on top of her foot…this tiny little movement seemed to give him the courage to move forward in the conversation, even with tears in his eyes.  I was heartbroken when he told his story that day.

From that first day through today, I could not have done this job without the help of this entire team of professionals.  Some days, as we have all experienced, are much worse than others.  However, it is through the cooperation, communication, daily uplifting, and partnership that I’ve spent the past year working on with each of you in order to help save the lives of children in our communities.  I believe in partnerships and building bridges, but sometimes bridges need to be rebuilt on a foundation of trust, encouragement, and support.  In short, I could not have done this job without all of your expertise, patience, and assistance. 

Some of you I’ve harassed with multiple phone calls, that I always followed up with long and exhausting voicemails, hundreds of text messages, pages of emails, and then even a personal visit to your office where I would either find you, wait for you, or put a mountain of sticky notes on your desk…all of this in a matter of an hour or less sometimes.  As most of you know, I am persistent, but I have the best of intentions, because what drives me is the health and well-being of those that can’t protect or help themselves.  I remain approachable even if we disagree, because I can’t learn how to better protect children if you don’t provide me constructive feedback.  I get tunnel vision sometimes, as we all do, but I never lose focus. 

I don’t have enough time up here to thank each of you by name, because there are a lot of names, but if you are in this room, as well as those that could not be here today, please stand and give each other a round of applause for the work that we do every day.

Lastly, I would like to personally thank the Children Safety Center in Springdale for your daily encouragement and words of wisdom…and, of course, your patience in allowing me to use your conference room many times as my office.  Without each of you, this job could have been much more challenging.  Whether a child is 2 years old or 17 years old, the Children Safety Center remains one of, if not the best option, to help children of all ages get the resources they need to start healing from their trauma. 

A quote that drives each and every one of us, stands firmly today:  “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.”