• June 2004
  • Vol. 5, No. 5

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Interviewing Children and Preparing for Court

States now have an opportunity to receive assistance in establishing their own high quality forensic interviewing courses. Under the project Half a Nation by 2010, the American Prosecutors Research Institute (APRI) is offering States training in its Finding Words curriculum.

Finding Words was designed by and for frontline child abuse professionals. The course is offered to multidisciplinary teams consisting of prosecutors, law enforcement officers, child protection workers, and forensic interviewers. The goal is to train these professionals to work together throughout an investigation, from the initial report, to the interview, to prosecution when appropriate.

The intense week-long curriculum begins with basic information about interviewing and child development. Additional topics include:

  • How children experience sexual abuse
  • Diversity
  • Using age-appropriate guidelines to question children
  • Processes of disclosure and inquiry
  • Use of interview aids (such as anatomical dolls)
  • Potential blocks and problems in the interview process
  • Prosecution issues such as hearsay and corroboration
  • Suggestibility
  • Preparing the child witness for court
  • Testifying in court

The course concludes with two peer-critiqued interviews--one with a real child about a non-abuse event, and one with an adult actor portraying an alleged child sexual abuse victim.

By early 2003, five States had completed training and were certified to offer local Finding Words courses: Minnesota, South Carolina, Indiana, New Jersey, and Mississippi. Five more States had been admitted into the program, including Georgia, Missouri, Maryland, West Virginia, and Illinois. Under a grant from the Children's Bureau, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, APRI's Office of Research and Evaluation is evaluating the implementation of Finding Words within each State and measuring the impact of this training on case outcomes in the child protection and criminal justice systems.

A report on the project, Finding Words: Half a Nation by 2010, including a program application, can be found on the APRI website at www.ndaa.org/pdf/finding_words_2003.pdf (Editor's note: Link no longer active). For more information about the project, contact the National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse at ncpca@ndaa-apri.org or (703) 549-4253.

Related Items

A recent article in the APRI Update discusses the implications of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that undermines the ability of prosecutors to admit child hearsay statements when the child is unavailable for testimony. Read the article at http://www.ndaa.org/ncpca_update_v16_no12.html.

Read more about forensic interviews in previous issues of Children's Bureau Express:

  • "Forensic Interviews and Family-Centered Practice" (April 2003)
  • "Preparing Kids for Court" (September/October 2001)

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