ESCANABA, Mich. (WJMN) – Sarah Sorensen is a child forensic interviewer at the Delta Regional Child Advocacy Center (DRCAC). The non-profit organization focuses on providing a safe space for children to share their stories of abuse.
“Children and families come to us at a very vulnerable time in their lives,” said Sorensen. “They come to us at a point when, you know, they’re talking to us about a very private and a very emotional thing. So, it’s an honor for a child to be able to trust me to be able to talk to me about things that have happened to them. That is by far one of the biggest rewards. It is an absolute honor to be a part of that.”
In 2022, Sorensen and the DRCAC travelled over 11,000 miles across 8 Upper Peninsula counties to interview children. One of the staff members that travels with the organization is an Australian Shepherd named Blue. Blue, herself, is a survivor. She was rescued from a puppy mill in 2020. Sorensen and her family fostered and then adopted Blue from the Delta Animal Shelter. Blue is a nationally certified therapy dog and comforts survivors before, during, and after their forensic interview.
“We said that Blue’s impact was going to be immeasurable and that was really an understatement. With Blue coming in and doing what she was doing, we knew that the impact was going to be big, but we couldn’t have even imagined it was going to be big,” said Sorensen. “I mean the amount of people that Blue has comforted this last year, she’s seen over 200 kids. But that’s just the kids with the cases she’s had. That doesn’t include the parents, that doesn’t include these kids’ siblings, that doesn’t include when something happens at a school, and she needs to go there for it. That doesn’t include all the kids at the school.”
Blue’s impact inspired Sorensen to start her own non-profit called Canines for Comfort.
It’s an assistance dog program that trains and places canines into organizations that serve vulnerable populations. A Golden Retriever named Vera is one of the Canines for Comfort pups.
She’s currently training with the Escanaba Public Safety Department, where she will provide support for adult victims of crime.
“Every victim, no matter how old they are, they all deserve to be able to have that comfort. I hate to use the phrase that they’re just dogs, but if just having a dog present can help that person be able to talk about what happened to them and be able to be that common, familiar face with them as they’re navigating all of these systems, I think that’s the least we can do to be able to help support victims in that way,” said Sorensen.
Courtney Verbrigghe nominated Sorensen for the Remarkable Women of the Upper Peninsula contest. The two initially met when they both fostered dogs from the puppy mill. Verbrigghe is now Blue and Vera’s groomer, but she says Sorensen and her dogs are more like family than anything.
“I nominated Sarah because she is truly a remarkable woman,” said Verbrigghe. “She sees a problem and takes it into her own hands to solve. She doesn’t see a problem and just brush it off and wait for someone else to solve it, she truly takes them into her own hands and solves them. She’s so confident and confidential in the things she sees yet raises awareness at that same time. She’s such a gentle person and a wonderful dog handler. Someone I truly look up to in every way.”
While Sorensen is a remarkable woman herself, she says she wouldn’t be where she is today without the remarkable women in her life.
“I feel like so many of the remarkable women in my life they, you know, I’m surrounded by them. I work with them, they’re my family, they’re my friends. This community is filled with so many remarkable women, and I feel like with that we rally together, and we all support each other in some way, shape, or form of capacity. We all support each other, we all push each other to be better, to be the best person we can be, but also when times are really tough,” said Sorensen.
“We rally around each other. There’s been days that have been really rough, and I’ll come to pick Blue up, and Courtney is willing to listen to things that have happened or to whatever it is. It’s the same thing at work. This place is filled with remarkable women in this field. There are so many women in this field, they’ve really pushed the envelope to push and to make things better for children and for victims.”
To learn more about Canines for Comfort, click here.