A forensic interview is a one-time session between a child and a trained forensic interviewer that is meant to gain an understanding of the child’s information, in their own words, when there are concerns of possible abuse or when the child has witnessed violence against another person. The session is video-recorded and is conducted in a supportive and non-leading manner by a professional trained in the Child First Forensic Interview Protocol model. Interviews are observed by members of the multi-disciplinary team involved directly in the investigation (such as law enforcement, Arkansas State Police, and DCFS).
Forensic interviews are meant to reduce the number of times the child is interviewed and to ensure that the interview is done in a safe, unbiased, and child friendly environment.
Children should be talked to by a trusted adult caregiver about what they can expect when they arrive at the CAC. The child should be told that they will be talking to an adult about something that was reported to keep them safe. The child should be reassured that it is okay to talk freely and to tell the truth. It is also important that no one rehearses with the child or tells the child what to say during the interview. It's very important to reassure the child that they are not in any trouble.
The interviewer must talk with your child alone. It may be difficult for your child to discuss possible abuse in front of you. If your child discloses abuse, it may be upsetting to you and the team must remain focused on the best interest of the child and be able to observe the interview in a setting that allows them to make a good assessment of the allegations in order to properly investigate them.
During the interview, the caregiver will be meeting with a child advocate to complete paperwork and learn about any needed resources to help your child, you, and your family. If you bring other children with you, they may play in the child-friendly lobby while they wait.
Immediately following the interview, an investigator will inform you about what the next step will be in the investigation. You may ask any questions or express concerns at this time. Unless the investigator tells you differently, you may leave with your child after talking with them. The child advocate may contact you at a later date to schedule appointments, make referrals, or provide you with more information. The multi-disciplinary team will meet to develop a plan.
Please listen to your child should they want to discuss the interview with you. However, should your child not want to talk about it, please do not be concerned and don't force them to talk about it. Sometimes children are tired of talking and prefer not to talk about it afterwards. Please remember to thank your child for cooperating and talking to the interviewer. You might commend them on their courage, assure them that they are loved and supported, no matter what they disclosed during the interview. Please refrain from telling your child that the interview is the final step in the process. Some cases must go through the legal system, court system, or require an additional interview.