Forensic interviewing of children is an impartial fact-finding process that guides decision-making in criminal, family, and juvenile law cases. A forensic interview is a structured conversation that is designed to obtain information from the child about an event the child has experienced. A properly conducted forensic interview tests alternative hypotheses and is directed by questions that permit the child to report events in their own words. When there is concern that a child has been physically or sexually abused a forensic interview can assist in evidence-gathering and determine what steps are needed to protect the child’s physical safety and emotional well-being. In many cases the forensic interview is a central piece of evidence and, therefore, it should be based on research-proven interview techniques that will produce reliable and credible information and result in a fair disposition of the legal charges.
Dr. Daniel Swerdlow-Freed has broad training in the forensic interviewing of children and is well-informed about the research in this field. He is known for his ability to expertly conduct forensic interviews of children as well as to evaluate the quality of other professional’s forensic interviews. His expert witness testimony explains the importance of research-based interview techniques and how a child’s report can be enhanced or tainted by the quality of interview procedures. Attorneys value his ability to explain interview methods in easy-to-understand language and rely on his advice when deciding whether to proceed to trial or plea bargain.
Forensic interviewing of children involves multiple steps:
- Pre-interview data gathering
- Preparing the interview room
- Introducing the interviewer to the child and establishing rapport
- Explaining ground rules
- Conducting a practice interview
- Introducing the substantive topic
- Eliciting a free narrative
- Asking follow-up questions
- Ending the interview