Sexual Abuse Investigations: Interviewing and Evaluating Children’s Disclosures through a Research-Based Lens

Child welfare services (CWS) staff are tasked with making child safety decisions and referral disposition decisions every day for children and youth in child welfare referrals, open cases and in foster care. In order to ensure good decision-making in this regard, it is imperative that workers utilize best practice interviewing skills that maximize children’s abilities and elicit quality and accurate information from children. Additionally, how CWS staff evaluate children’s statements can be impacted by bias and misconceptions about children and sexual abuse dynamics, running the risk of leaving kids unprotected. It is of utmost importance that we are evaluating children’s disclosures with up-to-date, research-based knowledge regarding: disclosure patterns of children (including recantation), trauma implications, memory, cultural & developmental considerations, and perpetrator influence, while dispelling myths/misconceptions and surfacing biases related to children’s allegations of sexual abuse.

Course Objectives:

• The trainees will be able to identify best practice interviewing methods that that elicit the most accurate, detailed, & quality information from children.

• The trainees will identify and practice utilizing interviewing techniques that enhanced children’s capabilities, including narrative practice rapport building, open-ended questions, developmental and cultural considerations, and supportive techniques.

• The trainees will be able to identify and demonstrate the use of question types that enhance the productivity of children’s responses and resist question types that reduce children’s productiveness.

• The trainees will increase their ability to evaluate children’s statements through a research-based lens that considers disclosure patterns (including recantation), memory functioning, trauma implications, and perpetrator influence when determining whether alleged maltreatment has occurred or not.

• The trainees will increase awareness of their own biases and misconceptions as it relates to child interviewees and utilize critical thinking to counter bias/misconceptions.

Course Code