So What Exactly Is a Child Forensic Interviewer?
What is a forensic interviewer? Forensic interviewing is one of those jobs that most people don’t know exists. This is the start of National Forensic Interviewer Week, which provides a great opportunity to share more information about this off-the-radar career. While it might not be a well-known job, for those children who find themselves at the center of a child abuse investigation, it is a vital role.
Forensic interviewers are part of the team - usually based out of a children's advocacy center - that makes sure an investigation into a report of child abuse doesn’t scare the child or cause more trauma to them. These specialized interviewers ask children who may have been abused all the questions a police officer, social worker and/or prosecutor would ask in their initial investigations. As they work to make sure the child is comfortable in one room, the interviewer and child are being watched by a team of investigators in another. While talking with the child, the forensic interviewer “translates” all of the questions those investigators need answered into words the child will understand. They phrase the questions very carefully, so the child does not feel pressured to answer in one way or another. They do all of this while also supporting the child emotionally. In this aspect, the interviewer’s job is to ensure there is both enough rapport between them and the child that the child will be willing to talk about the sensitive details of what happened to them with someone they just met. At the same time, the interviewer ensures that the child doesn’t feel intimidated, powerless, or distraught by the interview experience itself.
Forensic interviewers are more than just people who like to talk to kids. They are trained on evidence-based models of questioning children about past events. They rely on a mountain of research that shows that because they followed these models, the answers the child gave to their questions are credible. Getting accurate details from a child is vital to guiding the rest of the investigation into whether a crime happened and whether a child is safe in their home.
Forensic interviewers are special breed of people. Not only do they hear the most minute - and sometimes horrifying - details of abuse from the child, they do so while being watched by many people, being recorded, and supporting the child. It requires a unique ability maintain the resilience to be able to hear the worst that happens to children and still come to work each day ready meet new child with compassion and care. I am so grateful to know so many interviewers, and am so glad that each of them have committed their careers to helping children be heard and walking with them through traumatic moments in their lives. If you know a forensic interviewer, take a moment this week to thank them!
(By the way, the child in the picture above is my daughter not a CALICO client. We value the confidentiality of all of our clients and protect it to our absolute fullest ability.)