What is Forensic Interviewing...and why do we do it?

The following post is written by one of our Criminal Justice interns, Allison, who has been interning with us since January.  Allison attends Oakland University and is interested in pursuing a career in Law. 

“Forensic interview” is a big term that really just means an open-ended conversation with a child that is child-centered and non-leading, about possible traumatic event(s) he or she may have experienced or witnessed” …all in a child-friendly environment.  Forensic interviews serve several purposes, including:

1. Allowing the child to tell his or her story in a non-threatening environment

2. Assessing the safety of the child’s living arrangements; possibly with CPS

3. Addressing the child’s needs and offering support

A forensic interview is conducted at the Child Advocacy Center in your area when there has been a report to law enforcement, the Department of Health and Human Services, or Child Protective Services that a child may have been a victim of abuse or witness to a crime.

At times, our interviewers will conduct an extended forensic interview, which takes place over several sessions. The reason for this is that some children need more than one session to establish trust, feel comfortable with the interviewer, or even if they become exhausted from telling and, to some extent, re-living what they have been through.  An extended interview is available to all the children that come to our center, though generally more heavily considered for children with special developmental considerations or children who may be anxious or frightened.

Forensic interviews at the Child Advocacy Center are conducted by our forensic interview specialists who have received advanced training on the forensic interviewing of child victims/witnesses. The forensic interviewers routinely participate in training and work closely with their peers to continually develop their skills. They are all trained to work with children and learn specifically how to make a connection with the child to quickly establish trust.

Forensic interviews ultimately reduce the number of times the child would have to share and relive their story, by inviting everyone who is involved with the case to be in the same place at the same time.  This helps the child who has experienced trauma to begin their healing process.

Immediately after the interview, the parents meet with the interviewer, law enforcement, CPS, and our on-staff counselor.  They are given an idea of how the interview went and what law enforcement and/or CPS’ next steps are.  A counselor then follows up with the family to provide resources, offer support, and answer any further questions they have.

Our staff is always here to help, whether it is at center, during an interview or over the phone, after everything has seemed to pass. We are here to support our families through the entire process, and walk with them every step of the way.