There are several elements related to the child interview that should be determined before it takes place. These include:

  • Where it should occur
  • Who should be present
  • How information from the interview will be documented
  • How many interviews are needed

As mentioned on The Process of Protective Investigations page of this section, communities vary in how investigations are organized and coordinated. As you speak with various officials and professionals, find out what their role will be in your child’s case. Make your child’s and your own needs known, so someone can refer you to someone else if necessary. Keep a log or Contact Tracking form of everyone who speaks to you, their contact information, and what they told you.

An abuse investigation can be a long process, and parents may find it frustrating and confusing. Turn to the law enforcement victim advocate and/or your local rape crisis center for help. Once you understand the process and have your questions answered, you’ll be able to explain it to your child in a way that conveys your unconditional love and understanding and your intention to stop any further abuse.

Where should the child interview occur?

The interview should occur in a location the child perceives as a “safe place.” In most instances, this will not be the child’s home. It may be the child’s school, a therapist’s office, a child interview room at the Child Protective Services (CPS) office, police station or a Children’s Advocacy Center (see above).

Who should be present at the interview?

Usually, a CAC interviewer trained in forensics conducts the interview. Sometimes, a CPT member conducts the interview while the other investigators (such as a mental health expert or an assistant prosecutor) observe through a one-way mirror or watch the videotaped interview through a monitor. And, in some cases, investigations may be conducted jointly by CPS and law enforcement. When this happens, CPS is responsible for the child interview and law enforcement interviews the person accused of abusing the child. Both may be present at the child interview, although usually only one conducts it. Having more than one person present during your child’s interview may eliminate the need for multiple interviews.

How will information be documented?

Some record will be made of information gathered during your child’s interview. This may be a videotape, an audiotape, or notes. Each of these methods of data gathering has its strengths and weaknesses. For example, notes are more easily taken by someone who is not interviewing your child; this means two people need to be present at your child’s interview. Specialized facilities such as CACs are equipped with one-way mirrors, so that the interview with your child can be observed and notes taken. Sometimes a one-way mirror is used and the law enforcement investigator watches the interview in the adjacent room.

How many interviews are needed?

The number of interview sessions usually depends on who is conducting the investigation. In the majority of cases, CPS conducts one interview. If no confirming evidence emerges and there is no other supporting evidence, the CPS worker will usually close the case after a single interview. Similarly, a member of the CPT (see above) conducts a medical exam and a single interview, unless the interview is inconclusive or if there are confirming medical findings but no disclosure by the child. In contrast, mental health experts assessing children at the request of certain agencies or the courts often conduct several interviews.