The best people to provide clarity in any case are the ones who actually experienced or witnessed it. But when your top witness is a child, it may not be as straightforward as you want it. Forensic interviews were designed to uphold neutrality in the interviewing process to bolster the child’s credibility and encourage the child to provide as detailed an account of what s/he remembers to help build a case.
This session’s resource speakers are Wendy Dutton and Lindsay Gephardt. Wendy is a Forensic Interviewer in Phoenix, Arizona. She has conducted thousands of forensic interviews over the past 28 years, served as an expert witness in child abuse cases, and published various articles and a workbook for sexually abused children. Meanwhile, Lindsay is a Deputy County Attorney with Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. She has been a prosecutor for almost a decade where she focuses on areas of family violence and sex crimes.
Details of the webinar are on
- What forensic interviewing is, the different disciplines involved, and the beginnings of the field that was initially met with legal scrutiny.
- The creation of child advocacy centers and accreditation standards for forensic interviewing of children.
- Neutrality in forensic interviews: The importance of training standards for the interviewer, the record of the interview, and the venue where the interview will take place to uphold neutrality.
- The different forensic interview standard protocols, zeroing in the most well-researched ones: the National Institute of Child Health and Development (NICHD) Protocol and the Semi-Structured Cognitive Interview (SSCI).
- The elements of conducting forensic interviews.
- Starting with rapport building to encourage the child to tell descriptive stories and answer related questions.
- Establishing ground rules for the child on what to do and say during the forensic interview.
- Inviting the child to narrate their story spontaneously.
- Overcoming script memory challenges by getting them to focus on specific events.
- Establishing the elements of the incident by going through as many details surrounding the event that can corroborate with evidence.
- Asking clarifications for further details on the parts of the narrative and incident elements.
- Focusing on the child’s disclosure – the reason for disclosing and who else they disclosed to.
- Verifying whether the child experienced or witnessed other types of abuse or violence.
- Considering potential alternative explanations in the spirit of neutrality.
- Providing a neutral closure that ensures the child isn’t distressed due to the interview.
- A rundown of the different training programs available throughout the US on forensic interviewing.
- The specific types of cases where forensic interview of a child is deemed required, where it should be conducted, alternative options to a forensic interviewer, and why a forensic interview is conducted.
- The history of admissibility of forensic interviews in court.
- Specific types of statements that can be used in court to establish the credibility of the child, determine the truth, and rebut claims by the defense.
- The role of the forensic interviewer, detectives, and child protection workers as expert witnesses.
- Ways to defend the forensic interview from common tactics by the defense to demerit it.
Topics raised during the Q&A were about:
- What’s the youngest age a child can be to do a forensic interview.
- Applicability of child forensic interview techniques to adults.
- The features of a child-friendly room.
- How to build rapport with a child.
- Managing children who do not want to talk.
- Conducting the forensic interview without burning out the child.
- How taking notes during the interview can get in the way.
- Why the defense attorney cannot observe during the forensic interview.
Other Webinars with this Speaker:
- April 15: Make the Call: Child Discipline or Abuse
- Aug 5: Forensic Interviews of Children (this webinar)
Resources and Handouts:
- Book: Tell Me What Happened: Structured Investigative Interviews of Child Victims and Witnesses
- Comparing the NICHD and RATAC Child Forensic Interview Approaches-Do the Differences Matter?
- Child Forensic Interviewing: Best Practices
- The Forensic Interviewer at Trial
- Zero Abuse Project
- “Excellent presenters. Thank you!” — William
- “The entire thing was useful — good job.” — Daniel
- “Just hearing people talk about this topic professionally, with great ideas, and dominion of the theme. Great job!” — Kyle H
- “I love how the whole interviewing process is sensitive to the child in every aspect, by all that are involved throughout the process. So strength-based.” — Leticia
- “The importance of multi-disciplinary teams!” — Maria
- “The webinar provided a good basic understanding about Forensic Interviewing of Children.” — Mark
- “The examples of how to prepare and what types of questions to ask were very helpful.” — Preston
- “I loved learning how kids might respond in an interview. As adults, we think as adults and it is good to be reminded of how a child would respond, what they might be thinking, and their developmental limitations.” — Selahndra