Updated: 22 November 2016
Specialist child interviewing is a skilled task that can only be undertaken by social workers and police who have been specifically trained for this purpose.
We need to understand the referral process, the roles and responsibilities of different staff and the importance of keeping the child or young person at the centre of our work while keeping family/whānau informed during the process.
Specialist child interviews are conducted as part of an investigation when a child or young person has, or may have, been the victim of abuse that may constitute a criminal offence.
The purpose is to obtain the most complete, accurate and reliable information about the alleged abuse or incident in accordance with the legislation. All interviews must be video-taped and may be used as evidence in court.
Information must be collected in a competent way allowing the child or young person to clearly and freely state the facts of the complaint without being asked leading questions.
Questions must respect the developmental, cultural and individual characteristics of the child or young person.
Specialist child interviews are held at one of the specialist video interview units across the country.
The unit may be at an Oranga Tamariki site or a Police site. The unit will have all of the necessary facilities to monitor and record the interview and provides a safe, non-threatening environment to facilitate a child or young person's free discussion.
During an investigation into an allegation that a child or young person has, or may have, been the victim of abuse that may constitute a criminal offence, consideration will be given as to whether a specialist child interview is required.
This will usually be a decision made with the police as we work together under the Child Protection Protocol.
The social worker or police officer makes a written referral for a specialist child interview giving details of the alleged abuse or event witnessed and any other information relevant to the child or young person and their circumstances. It may be important to let the interviewer know of any family/whānau or contextual issues that may be relevant to the allegation or provide useful background information.
Written, informed consent from a legal guardian who is not the alleged offender is preferred before a child or young person is interviewed. Consent may be waived in certain circumstances following legal advice.
Once the specialist child interviewer receives the referral they will make contact with the investigating social worker and police officer. The interviewer will allocate an interview time for the child or young person and plan the interview.
The interview process (e.g. talking to the adults, the interview of the child or young person, written reports) will take up to half a day to complete. Urgent cases will need to be prioritised by the video unit.
Apart from exceptional circumstances, only the child or young person and the specialist child interviewer will be in the interview room during the interview.
The specialist child interviewer plans the interview and ensures that they have sufficient information about the child or young person’s needs and the referral information. As well as the discussion before the interview, the specialist child interviewer and investigating social worker will maintain contact throughout the process. In some instances the specialist child interview may ask the investigating social worker to gather additional information or provide clarification about the referral or the child or young person’s needs and abilities in preparation for the interview. The interviewer may also speak to the child or young person’s parent to gather the information they require. A specialist child interview follows a predetermined structure and uses techniques designed to obtain the most complete, accurate and reliable account from the child or young person. This requires the interviewer to build rapport with the child or young person and conduct the interview in a way that accommodates the child or young person’s abilities and needs.
The monitor observes the interview in a separate room via a closed circuit television link. The monitor's role is to ensure the equipment is set up and functioning while recording accurate, legible and comprehensive notes of the interview. They provide support to the interviewer by noting areas that have been missed or need clarifying or expanding. The monitor may assist the child or young person before and after the interview and if they need to leave the room for any reason.
The social worker has an important role in consulting with and informing the child or young person and their family/whānau about the investigation and interview; giving the specialist child interviewer information relevant to the allegation and the child or young person; and, most importantly, monitoring and planning with the family/whānau for the child or young person’s ongoing safety and wellbeing. The social worker is expected to accompany the child or young person and their family/whānau to the interview and be present while the interview talks to the accompanying adults. The social worker will have already met with the accompanying family/whānau to share information about the interview and investigation process and respond to their questions and worries. Information shared with the accompanying family/whānau should not, therefore, come as a surprise to them. Alleged perpetrators are not permitted to attend interviews.
Once the specialist child interview has been completed, the video record (DVD) of the interview remains the property of the police.
The DVD may be used as evidence in future court cases if needed.
If there are court proceedings, the DVD must be kept for ten years. If there are no court proceedings, the DVD must be kept for seven years.
It's important that the interviewer talks to the family/whānau, wherever possible with the social worker and/or police officer present, about what the child or young person said.
It may be appropriate for older children and young people to be present for this discussion, otherwise don’t forget to ensure that the child is being comfortably cared for while the discussion takes place.
It may be necessary for the interviewer to speak with the social worker or police officer alone first, but this won’t happen often.
The interviewer will:
The interviewer will support the social worker to talk with family/whānau when a child or young person has made a disclosure of abuse during the interview. The social worker will work with the family/whānau to build safety around the child or young person and talk about what might need to happen next e.g. counselling, medical examination, further police involvement.
Sometimes there will be no disclosure of abuse and the family/whānau may just need advice about counselling or support.
The social worker may, in consultation with the family/whānau, consider the option of a family/whānau and professionals meeting after the specialist child interview. This will enable all the people who are important to the child or young person to work together with the social worker to plan for their safety and wellbeing.
If such a meeting has not been organised, the social worker will need to ensure that those who need to know about the outcome of the interview are quickly informed. For example, if only one parent attends the interview, the other parent will need to be informed of the outcome as soon as possible. Consider who is important to involved and then get them involving with planning the next steps.
This video, presented by a child, takes a tour of a typical evidential video suite and outlines who will be there and what will happen.
It can be used to help prepare children and young people taking part in a specialist child interview and help answer any questions they may have.