What is a forensic interview?

A forensic interview is a single session, recorded investigative 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 supportive and non-leading manner by a professional trained in the ChildFirst Forensic Interview model.  Interviews are remotely observed by representatives of the agencies involved in the investigation (such as law enforcement and child protective services).

Why are interviews recorded? 

Interview recording can:

Provide an authentic record.  Non-verbal cues and body language are an important aspect of a child’s statement. Body language, demeanor, and energy are things that can only be captured by video. The essence of the original interview may be lost over time unless these visual cues are preserved with a recording that includes both audio and video.

Save time. Having a recording system in place allows the interviewer to focus his or her attention on the child’s statement instead of on taking notes during the interview, thereby reducing the time necessary to complete the interview. In addition, recorded interviews also save time for investigators when preparing for court.

Allow more than one member of the multidisciplinary team to observe the interview in real time.  With an interview recording system, it is possible for all team members to observe the interview in real time, and to relay suggestions to the interviewer in a discreet manner. Having more than one person participating in the interview in this manner makes it less likely that a fruitful angle of questioning will be overlooked.

Provide a record of a non-leading and legally defendable forensic interview. It is important to each investigation that non-leading and legally defendable interview techniques are used. A video and audio recording of an interview will show exactly how the interview was conducted. This will often hush frivolous accusations of inappropriate techniques before they arise.

Help investigators provide more accurate testimony.  It may take one or many years before a case of child abuse goes to court. Without a recording of the interview, the investigator must rely on notes and memory when it comes time to testify. With a recording of the interview, the investigator can refresh his or her memory of what happened directly before being called to testify.

Allow for continuous improvement. Interview recording gives forensic interviewers access to the video for the purpose of review and training. Recording of interviews allows interviewing best practices to be easily shared among investigators.

How long does a forensic interview take?

Forensic interviews are semi-structured to allow for the developmental abilities, comfort and spontaneity of each child. As a general rule, forensic interviewers are trained to expect no more than 5 minutes per year of age of the child during the interview. However, the length of the interview will ultimately be decided by the child’s developmental abilities and comfort.