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December/January 2024Vol. 24, No. 10Updated Best Practice Guidelines for Forensic Interviewing

The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC) recently released updated best practice guidelines for forensic interviewing. Forensic interviewing refers to the practice in which a specially trained professional interviews children and youth to gather information about allegations of maltreatment. It is a specialized skill that requires ongoing training and practice.

The 2023 guidelines, which are an update to APSAC’s 2012 guidelines on Interviewing in Cases of Suspected Child Abuse, feature current knowledge about best practices related to forensic interviews. The guidelines document includes the following sections:

  • Purpose of a forensic interview
  • Interviewer attributes
  • Interview context
  • Interview components

In discussing the purpose of the forensic interview, the guidelines highlight the ethical obligation to focus on the best interests of the child, the importance of focusing on children as witnesses and possible victims, and the understanding that a child forensic interview is only one part of a complete investigation. In the section on interviewer attributes, competencies, and practice behaviors, the authors advise the following:  

  1. Engage in practice that is research-informed.
  2. Participate in ongoing training and peer review.
  3. Exhibit an interviewer stance aimed at eliciting accurate and reliable information.
  4. Use language that is developmentally appropriate.
  5. Adapt to the individual child.
  6. Demonstrate respect for cultural diversity and strive to be culturally informed.
  7. Be aware of potential barriers when there are religious, ethnic, social class, and/or linguistic differences between the child and interviewer.
  8. Use qualified bilingual interviewers who are able to accommodate the child’s primary or preferred language whenever possible.
  9. Accommodate any unique needs the child may have, including physical, intellectual, and developmental disabilities.
  10. Actively participate as part of a multidisciplinary team, if available.

Access the guidelines, Forensic Interviewing of Children, on the APSAC website. The authors recommend using the guidelines in conjunction with the 2018 APSAC Handbook on Child Maltreatment – 4th Edition.