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Presentation on theme: "Cory Bryant, MSW Sara Lambert, BSW Alaska CARES Providence Health & Services FORENSIC INTERVIEWING OF CHILDREN AND TEENS: WHERE ALASKA IS HEADED."— Presentation transcript:


2 Child Interview A forensic interview is a structured conversation with a child that is designed to elicit accurate accounts of events. Defensible in court Not a clinical interview Neutral Interviews are to collect accurate information in a manner that respects the child as well as serves the needs of the child.

3 Current protocol: Forensic Interview Introduction Role Perception: why does the child think they are here? Establish rapport/assess developmental levels Agreement to talk about what is real Reintroduce the abuse topic Body Parts Inventory Obtain Details Close of Interview

4 Stages Preparation Initiation Direction Conclusion

5 Preparation Develop a plan Gather information Assess own reactions Consider premature conclusions

6 Initiation stage Greet the child Introduce self Your role Child’s perception Purpose of interview

7 Direction stage Establish rapport Developmental assessment Household composition Prepositional awareness Assess sequencing Agreement to talk about what is real

8 Abuse topic Obtain details Avoid leading questions Who (relationship, who else knows) When (first time, last time, duration) Where (happen, others, in the house) How (did he get you to) What (look like, feel like, hear) BPI

9 Conclusion stage Summarize Explore fears Tell the child they did the right thing Ask if they have questions Ask what you forgot to ask Reconnect time

10 Developmental Considerations Preschool children: Think you already know what they know May supply an answer---regardless of knowledge Often answer yes to indicate cooperation May not understand kinship relationships (mother’s mother may not be connected to “grandma”) May focus on one aspect of a situation or a question at a time Many not be good at collecting things in categories Difficulty with time, duration, repetition and distance


12 Vocabulary Use short words (house instead of residence) Easy phrases (what happened to you instead of what you experienced Use proper names instead/places of pronouns (what did Mary do instead of what did she do) Use concrete, visualizable nouns (backyard instead of area) Use verbs that are action oriented (point to, tell me about instead of describe) Keep it simple, (someone is worried about you instead of someone had a concern)

13 School-age Still believe adults tell the truth Easily confused by complex negation, (are you not going to draw today) Difficulty with pronoun reference May not organize events in their minds into adult story structures Make errors with the difference between ask and tell Sarcasm and irony Difficulty with complex verb phrases (where would you have been when that would have taken place)

14 School-age? Puppies are easier!

15 Adolescents Still may have school age characteristics Still may have difficulty with complex negation May not have good narrative skills May be confused by linguistic ambiguity (newspaper headlines, ads, metaphors.) May not understand time as both historical concept and a day-to-day concept that affects their lives Still may benefit from psychological distancing to recount traumatic, embarrassing events

16 Teenagers!

17 Dangerous Assumptions Adults and children speak the same language Children have the same storage space for speech as adults Children’s responses to questions are answers to questions Inconsistency is a cause for suspicion We can expect teens to share our ability to reason A 14 year old is a 14 year old is a 14 year old

18 The New Model - RATAC Child First Finding Words Developed by Victor Vieth

19 Child First Doctrine The child is our first priority. Not the needs of the family. Not the child’s “story.” Not the evidence. Not the needs of the court. Not the needs of the police, child protection, attorney, ect. The child is our first priority.

20 RATAC Rapport Anatomy Identification Touch Inquiry Abuse Scenario Closure

21 Rapport Interviewer operates under two overaching philosophies: ChildFirst Doctrine and Acknowledging and respecting each child’s diversity

22 Rapport Purpose: Comfort Communication through language, behavior, and emotion Competence (development and cognitive abilities) Child is the expert on him/herself Establish with child that there are no wrong answers Developmental screening Perfect opportunity for child to practice providing narrative Developmental Considerations Face pictures – through age 7, 8-10 give choice, 11 and older give choice Family Circles – generally use with children through age 10, 11 and older depends on child’s presentation

23 Anatomy Identification Purpose: To determine the young child’s understanding of and ability to distinguish between genders and to arrive at common language regarding names for the body parts (the child’s words) Developmental Considerations: When naming body parts generally use with all children through age 9 Typically skip with ages ≥ 10, but come back to if necessary

24 Touch Inquiry Purpose: To assess the child’s ability to understand and communicate about touch Developmental Considerations: Start with positive touch then follow up with negative touch ∙ Ages ≤ 5 hugs/tickles/kisses then “Are there places on your body that no one is supposed to touch/you don’t want anyone to touch?” ∙ Ages 6-9 “What kinds of touches do you get that you like?”then “Are there places on your body that no one is supposed to touch/you don’t want anyone to touch? ∙ Ages ≥ 10 “What do you know about coming to talk to me today?”

25 Abuse Scenario Purpose: To allow the child to provide details of his or her reported experience(s), and Explore alternative hypotheses

26 Abuse Scenario with Children seven and under Communication appears disorganized - child may start their narrative at the end, then go to the end, and conclude their narrative with the beginning.

27 Abuse Scenario with Children seven and under Poor self monitoring – “Child’s own talk” Child may change whom or what they are talking about without any signal Child may change the words they are use without explanation or awareness Identifies penis as peepee and then refers to it as the private Be sure to ask the child for clarification, utilize interview aids, and limit use of pronouns to be sure you understand what it is the child is trying to tell you

28 Abuse Scenario with Children seven and under Thinking is egocentric- Everything is about them! Children this age will report what is important to them. They assume you know what they know.

29 Abuse Scenario with Children seven and under Source monitoring – How does the child know what she knows?? Where does her information come from? Own experience? Someone telling her? Listening to adults talk? Brother/sister/peer telling her? Be sure to ask the child how she knows what she is telling you

30 Abuse Scenario with Children seven and under Thinking is concrete Children this age will interpret questions literally Child only answers the questions you ask them Be sure to use child’s words for: body parts, actions, and feelings. Also, reframe questions if needed

31 Abuse Scenario with Children twelve and older Adolescents omniscience – teens believe they know everything and if they don’t know something they don’t want to appear as if they don’t know something.

32 Abuse Scenario with Children twelve and older Avoid adult words and when teens use them be sure to check for meaning


34 Abuse scenario techniques Provide the opportunity for narrative Tell me all about that Then what happened Tell me everything you remember Uh-huh…

35 Abuse scenario techniques cont. After child gives their narrative, gather structured narrative: First time Last time Different time Worst time Someplace else Something else

36 Abuse scenario techniques cont. Gather the details Who, what, where… *being cognizant of age and developmental limitations* Sensory information… what did you hear, taste, smell, feel? Corroborative details

37 Abuse scenario techniques cont. Use interview aids Drawings – have the child draw their house, room, or place of incident for clarification Diagrams – use BPI to establish common words for body parts Anatomical dolls – use when children are having a hard time using their words to describe what happened

38 Closure Purpose: To educate the child regarding personal safety (ie who could they tell if that were to happen or happen again), explore safety options with the child, provide a respectful end to the interview, and bring them back into the present. Developmental Considerations: Generally with children ≥ 6 ask to see if there is anything you did not ask the child feels is important for you to know or you forgot to ask


40 So, why RATAC? Child Development part the curriculum Sets the child (and interview) up for success Example: During instructions for BPI, child is told interviewer needs to know what the child calls different body parts. Interviewer tells child they will circle body part and then child is to tell them what they call. Interviewer: (Circles the head) What do you call this? Child: A circle. RATAC version: Interviewer: (Circles the head) What do you call this body part? Child: His head.

41 Court Rulings: Connecticut Connecticut v. Michael H., 970 A.2d 113,122 (Conn. 2009). The Supreme Court of Connecticut – defendant alleged the techniques employed by the interviewer were unduly; the court held the defendant “failed to make a showing that the testimony of [the child interviewed with the RATAC protocol] was the product of unduly suggestive or coercive questioning” Info about the case: “the child did NOT disclose abuse in the interview, but the defendant was convicted on the strength of the child’s testimony in court and his spontaneous, inappropriate sexualized behavior.”

42 Court Rulings: Georgia Baker v. State, 555 S.E.2d 899, 902 (Ga. Ct. App. 2001) A Georgia Appellate Court – abused children interviewed using RATAC “had the ‘requisite degree of trustworthiness’ to be admitted at trial.” “In its opinion, the court specifically described in detail the stages of the RATAC protocol as it outlines the method the child abuse investigator utilized to elicit credible statements from two siblings about their victimization by their mother’s live in boyfriend” (Cooley, Pract, Clinical, 2010).

43 Court Rulings: Indiana Williamson v. State, No. A06-1778, 2009 Ind. App. A defendant challenged that a detectives testimony “improperly bolstered the credibility” of the alleged victim because the detective had received his forensic interviewing training through “Finding Words.” The court found “the State’s decision to elicit testimony from [the detective] regarding his training in the use of non-leading interview questions was a permissible response to the defense’s claim of witness-coaching.” (Cooly, Pract, Clinical, 2010)

44 Court Rulings Also in: Maryland Mississippi Minnesota Kansas South Carolina Texas

45 Discloure Exercise

46 Disclosure Children rarely report. 1 in 10 children for sexual abuse Preschoolers more likely to disclose accidentally and adolescents to disclose purposefully.

47 Common Triggers for Disclosures child recently exposed to perpetrator sexualized behavior or statement educational awareness influence of peers anger child gains distance from perpetrator

48 Stages of disclosure Denial Tentative Active Recanting Reaffirming

49 Disclosure In a study by Lawson and Chaffin (1982), 28 children ages 4-12 were identified as sexually abused by testing + for an STD. Only 43% of these children disclosed at the first interview Caretaker’s belief/disbelief is very important: 63% disclosure vs. 17%. “Without the STD, the abuse of many children would likely not have been even remotely suspected by professionals.”

50 Sorenson and Snow(1981) 116 cases of confirmed sexual abuse: 11% were able to disclose at the first interview 79% initially denied or were tentative 22% recanted 93% finally confirmed their abuse

51 Criteria for Judging Credibility in a Child’s Outcry – Three areas 1. Information about the context of the sexual abuse. When and where What victim & offender were wearing What clothing was removed by whom Where other family members were Did the offender tell the victim not to tell Interviewer does not expect findings in all areas. Ask about the most recent incident as there may be many and this is confusing to the interviewer and the child.

52 2. The description or demonstration of the victimization. Child’s ability to describe specific acts An account of the sexual behavior told from the child’s viewpoint Sexual knowledge in the child’s statement that is beyond what is expected developmentally

53 3. The victim’s emotional state Child’s state of mind when recalling the abuse Child’s recollection of his/her feelings at the time of the abuse Common reactions: disgust, fear, anger and anxiety.

54 Credibility Although the interviewer will be looking for information in all three areas, positive findings in all three are not found in every case of sexual abuse.

55 Factors effecting how well children recover: Supportive parent/caregiver! The extent of the abuse, number of times it happened and how severe it was, Relationship to the offender.

56 Thank you for what you do! If you are not sure you have ever been near a hero or heroine, take a look at your colleagues. If you are not sure you have ever looked into the eyes of someone you knew to have courage, don’t let the sun set tonight without looking in a mirror. The weakest, the most precarious of vessels floating on the stream of life are those rafts occupied by abused children. For your willingness, even eagerness to commandeer one of those little boats, may God richly bless you. Victor Vieth APRI’s National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse

57 Thank you for Helping Protect Alaska’s Children!

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