April 2003Vol. 4, No. 3Forensic Interviews and Family-Centered Practice
Forensic interviewing often plays a key role in investigations of abuse or neglect, yet its focus on gathering information for the court makes some professionals question how it fits into family-centered practice. North Carolina's child welfare reform effort incorporates forensic interviewing in an effort to build stronger relationships with children and protect them from further exploitation and harm.
In a forensic interview, a caseworker or trained professional interviews a child to find out whether he or she has been maltreated. The approach is used to produce evidence that will stand up in court if the investigation leads to criminal prosecution. Forensic interviewing is designed to reduce child trauma by minimizing the number of times a child is asked to relate an abusive event.
It is not yet clear whether forensic interviewing results in more convictions of child abuse perpetrators, but North Carolina child welfare professionals are finding that the technique lends itself to a multidisciplinary approach to child welfare in which professionals from child protective services, law enforcement, and the mental health and medical fields coordinate efforts to support child victims and their families.
Children's Service Practice Notes, Vol. 8, Number 1, from the North Carolina Division of Social Services and the Family and Children's Resource Program, offers tips on how to be family-centered while investigating tough cases, a primer on forensic interviewing, and resources for conducting family-centered interviews. The newsletter is available online at http://ssw.unc.edu/fcrp/Cspn/cspn.htm.
Finding Words is a national program that has been recognized for training in forensic interviewing. For more information, contact Grant Bauer of the American Prosecutors Research Institute at (703) 518-4385.
The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children also offers training on forensic interviews. Visit their website at www.apsac.org/training/clinics.html.