When there has been an allegation of severe child abuse, there will likely be a forensic interview. We like to say that the term “forensic interview” is just a fancy way of saying “talking to kids”!
What is a Forensic Interview?
A forensic interview is a recorded interview designed to elicit a child’s unique information when there are concerns of possible abuse or when the child has witnessed violence against another person.
The forensic interview is conducted in a legally defensible, supportive, and non-leading manner by a trained professional. Interviews are observed by law enforcement and DCS personnel who are in a separate room.
Forensic interviews are neutral, meaning we only have the best interest of your child in mind. Children cannot be accompanied by adults in the interview. The interview is child-lead, so your child will have control and comfortability throughout the process.
What We Want You to Know.
While coming in for a forensic interview can sound like a scary thing, we work hard to make it a comfortable and easy experience for every child. What’s so great about having a forensic interview? Because it is recorded, your child will only have to tell their story once. Our interviewers are highly trained to elicit information in the most sensitive and child-friendly manner possible.
You and your child will be greeted with at the door with a warm smile and a snack, and asked to wait in a child-friendly play room. The interviewer will come to take your child to another room, while our victim advocate talks to you. Our victim advocate will be able to answer questions you may have, and provide you with needed resources such as counseling referrals, food assistance, and more. The interview is watched through cameras by CPS and Law Enforcement, meaning we are never unobserved with a child.
What Do I Say to My Child?
You know your child best. Try to refrain from telling them it is a “doctor’s appointment”, as this can cause anxiety. Never tell the child they are in trouble, and let them know ahead of time they will be talking to someone alone. If your child is anxious about being alone, make a plan to put them at ease, such as giving them your keys to take with them. This lets your child know you aren’t leaving and will be waiting for them. Let them know someone who keeps kids safe wants to talk to them, and that the place they are going is just for kids!
Who Will Be Talking to My Child?
The CAC of Sullivan County houses two trained forensic interviewers, Amy Bachman and Amanda White. Both Amy and Amanda are trained in ChildFirst Forensic Interviewing, which focuses on the child and their needs first. Visit our “About Us” page to learn more about Amy and Amanda’s qualifications.
Leading questions are off the table, and the interview is child-lead. The interviewer learns more about the child by asking rapport building questions about school, sports, and other interests of the child. Your child will be told about the cameras and recording equipment in the room (if they are over 5 years old). If your child is older, the interviewer may ask why they are here today. Younger children usually are asked to describe their family and friends. At this point, Amy or Amanda may steer the interview towards the allegation if the child has not mentioned it. Your child will never be forced to talk about anything and may leave the interview at any time.
Disclosures are carefully examined and the interviewer will ask more detailed questions to gather information. Your child may be asked to identify private body parts on a drawing or doll, regardless of disclosure, as a “safety check” for safe and unsafe touching.
All interviews are handled in a caring and neutral environment.
After the interview, the observers (CPS and/or Law Enforcement) will come talk to you about the interview and give you all needed information. Interviewers do not disclose or discuss information with anyone outside of the investigation (CPS, Law Enforcement, Mental Health Services, District Attorney’s Office) without a subpoena. The interview will be stored at the CAC and is property of the District Attorney’s Office.
Will My Child Have to Come Back?
There are very rare times that a child may need an “extended interview”. This may be because the child has multiple allegations to talk about, the interview has exceeded time constraints, or the interview is taking an emotional toll on the child and the child states they would like to come back at a later time to finish the interview.
Sometimes, a child may come to the CAC, but not talk to the interviewer. This is ok! The child may need time to adjust to the center and meet new people. An interview may be rescheduled in these circumstances.
Child forensic interviews are an important part of any investigation, not only for professionals, but for the child. If you have more questions about forensic interviews, please contact us at any time.