Alumna's doll helps abused children

By Natalie Blando-George

When Hazell McKenzie, MSW ’19, heard her daughter, Adama, confide an innocuous secret to her doll, she thought, “Why not create a doll that children who are being sexually abused can talk to?” That was the birth of AdamaDOLL, a company McKenzie founded with Zuhri Outland, MSW ’19.

McKenzie and Outland had learned that children who have been abused are reluctant to trust adults enough to tell them about abuse because adults are most often the abusers. They theorized that children might be more comfortable talking to a nonintimidating toy, so they developed a cloth and vinyl doll with a built-in recorder.

Still in prototyping and development, AdamaDOLL can record up to two weeks of conversations. Early testing has shown it makes the revelation process easier for children, as well as increases the accuracy of information collected. This could result in social workers and therapists being able to decrease the number of interviews that sexually abused children must participate in. Additionally, the conversations the children have with AdamaDOLL can be downloaded into a transcript, which can be used for diagnostic purposes or by law enforcement.

In 2018, AdamaDOLL was selected as a participant in the Binghamton University Koffman Incubator Accelerator Program. McKenzie and Outland are also working with the University’s Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Partnerships.