The Forensic Interviewer’s Impact at CACs
Guest post by: Karen Rush, Children’s Center Executive Director
The week of July 11-15th is National Forensic Interviewer Week. We are excited to celebrate this week and spend time honoring and thanking the forensic interviewers who provide this invaluable support to children in our community. We are also pleased to take some time in our monthly blog to share information with our community about forensic interviews and the role they have at Children’s Center.
I asked one of our forensic interviewers to describe what she does, and she told me, “my job is to listen to children.” Although that may sound simple, forensic interviewing is a highly specialized skill that requires extensive training. Forensic interviewers are trained professionals who provide an environment and process during which the child can share anything and everything they have experienced. Forensic interviews are conducted in a manner that is legally sound, of a neutral, fact-finding nature, and are coordinated to avoid duplicative interviews.
These conversations have several important features, including:
- They are child-centered and non-leading, allowing the child to tell their story in their own words in a comfortable and neutral environment.
- They help keep children healthy and safe by assessing for concerns of abuse and maltreatment, while always considering alternative explanations to what children are sharing.
- They are conducted by very skilled professionals who have a strong knowledge of child development, interviewing techniques, requirements of local, state, and federal authorities, the criminal justice system, and trauma-informed care.
At Children’s Center, our Forensic Interviewers are trained to follow Oregon Interviewing Guidelines and participate in Oregon Child Forensic Interview Training (OCFIT), an intensive training that is evidence-based, supported by up-to-date research, and approved by the National Children’s Alliance (our national accrediting body). Following this training, forensic interviewers engage in ongoing training and supervision and continue their learning throughout their career at local, state, and national trainings.
A comprehensive assessment when there are concerns of child abuse or neglect is a team endeavor! When a child and their family come to the Children’s Center for an assessment, they work with several of our staff, including a medical provider, a family support specialist, and the forensic interviewer. Often, our partners in law enforcement and child welfare (Oregon Department of Human Services) attend an assessment and are able to observe the interview through a one-way observation window. Interviews are audio and video recorded using specially designed equipment that ensures the security and integrity of the recording. In some cases, these videos may be used as evidence in court proceedings.
Forensic interviews ultimately reduce the number of times the child would have to share their story, by inviting law enforcement and ODHS to be in the same place at the same time. Our caring and compassionate team strive to provide an intentional and comfortable space for this to occur where the child feels safe, valued, and heard. This helps the child who may have experienced trauma to begin their healing process and is the primary reason for the existence of Child Advocacy Centers like the Children’s Center.
Our staff is always here to help, whether it is at the center, prior to and during an interview, or after the interview as families have questions or concerns. We are here to support our families through the entire process and walk with them every step of the way.