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FBI expands trauma notification training

Nearly a decade ago, the FBI launched a training program to help law enforcement professionals with the emotionally difficult task of death notifications. Now, the agency is expanding that training.

In Phoenix, FBI victims’ specialist Maricela Savalas said the focus is on cultural competencies and best practices for delivering traumatic, often life-altering news.

“If we’re doing a death notification, for instance,” said Savalas, “if they have specific cultural considerations that need to be taken into account on how their family member’s remains are returned to them, those are things that we take into consideration.”

The program has also evolved to cover a broader range of notifications including arrests, child abductions, serious injuries and otherwise notifying someone that they may have been the victim of a crime.

“We have special agents that are involved in our team,” Savalas said. “All of the trauma specialists in our field office or division have been trained to do this.”

The goal is to support victims after the initial notification, she said, often through services like counseling referrals or emergency travel assistance.

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Kirsten Dorman is a field correspondent at KJZZ. Born and raised in New Jersey, Dorman fell in love with audio storytelling as a freshman at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2019.