IV. D-2A. Audio Taping Planned Child Interviews

IOP Effective 2/23/06

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Purpose: To provide guidance to staff in carrying out the legal mandate to audio tape planned interviews with children during the assessment of allegations of abuse and neglect.


Legal Base: Title 22 M.R.S.A. Subchapter III §4021-4. "Audio Recording of planned interviews of children. To the extent possible, the department shall audio record all planned questioning of and planned interviews with children. No later than February 1, 2003, the commissioner shall provisionally adopt rules in accordance with Title 5, chapter 375 to establish procedures for the audio recording of planned questioning of and planned interviews with children. Rules adopted pursuant to this subsection are major substantive rules as defined in Title 5, chapter 375, subchapter II-A and must be reviewed before final approval by the joint standing committee of the Legislature having jurisdiction over judiciary matters.


Information collected in an interview that was not audio recorded may not be excluded from use in court proceedings solely because the interview was not audio recorded."



Planned Child Interviews means an interview that the caseworker has scheduled or intends to conduct in response to a report of child abuse or neglect. At any point in the Child Welfare process (e.g. assessment, case management, rehabilitation/reunification) when a caseworker intends to interview a child about allegations of abuse or neglect, the interview must be recorded.



Existing parental notification provisions and procedures apply.
Prior to conducting any child interview, the caseworker will:
§make sure the recorder is in good working order and that the caseworker is able to operate the recorder with ease,
§make sure that there is adequate space on the memory stick to record the planned interview,
§have an extra memory stick available to take to the interview.
Once the interview is about to take place, the caseworker will test the recording equipment.
On completion of the interview and return to the office, the caseworker will transfer the recording from the memory stick to the computer/server.


Introducing Children to the Recording

The introduction of the use of recording equipment will be incorporated into the caseworker’s activities related to building rapport and telling the child the purpose of the interview. [see appendix for examples.]
If a child objects to having their interview recorded, no recording will be made. The caseworker will record how the recording process was introduced and the child’s response to that in the narrative log.
The caseworker may explore the reasons for the child’s objection to being recorded by providing information, answering the child’s questions and letting the child see and experiment with the equipment, work to have the child allow for the interview to be recorded. In no way should a child be pressured to allow for the recording to occur.
Joint assessments/investigations of allegations of child abuse and neglect are often conducted with law enforcement. These cases represent a small percentage of the Bureau’s most serious assessments. Either prior to beginning or during the course of a joint investigation law enforcement states that the recording of child interviews will impede the progress or compromise their criminal investigation, no recording will be made. The objection and its basis will be recorded in the narrative log.


Recording Child Interviews in MACWIS:

The storage of the full child interview will not be easily accessible, therefore an entry related to the interview must be entered into the narrative log. This entry can summarize the interview.

At a minimum the entry must contain:

the name of the child being interviewed
location of interview
other people present
description of the child’s behavior and response to the interview
specific statements related to the allegations of abuse and neglect, other types of abuse and neglect, safety factors and protective capacities.
conclusions about and the basis for the child’s developmental stage, credibility and suggestibility.


If a child makes a specific clear disclosure related to the occurrence of child abuse and neglect, the caseworker will record the question or questions that led to the disclosure.



Some Thoughts To Consider Prior To Assessing A Child’s Level Of Development For The Purposes of Maltreatment Interviews

Current research and clinical practice has resulted in a significant shift in approach to assessing child development for the purposes of determining if a child has or has not been maltreated. The two most important developmental areas that must be assessed are a child’s cognitive ability and the understanding and use of language. (Past interviewing practice and protocols have placed a significant importance on assessing a child’s development in many areas of functioning.)
A greater emphasis must be placed on the interviewer knowing that one must not assume what a child means by the words that the child uses
Despite a child’s level of development, the more important matter is for the interviewer to always ask simple, understandable and reasonable questions of the interviewee
Simple, understandable and reasonable questions are those that are formulated in consideration of a particular child’s cognitive ability and the child understanding and use of language
Regardless of a child’s level of development, it is important to obtain a child’s commitment to tell the truth, "to talk about only that which really happened" rather than only assessing if that child knows the difference between "truth and lie"




Some Criteria To Consider When Assessing Child Credibility Following An Interview


Consideration of the interviewer’s approach and use of proper, legally sound techniques
Knowledge about the nature and content of prior interviews with the child being interviewed
Prior knowledge of the context and specific content and of previous disclosure/s (what was initially stated, when, how, what was asked and the specific responses to those questions)
Referent bias
Interviewer bias
Use of alternative hypothesis testing
Consideration of the opportunity for contamination, intimidation of the child
The child’s resistance to suggestion
Access and opportunity for victimization
Plausibility of statements
Nature of family dynamics
The nature of the child’s emotional affect in consideration of the context of the child’s victimization (no affect may be appropriate)
Consideration of what the resulting impact is for disclosure upon the child



Child Interview Introduction Examples


3-5 years old

"Hi Garret! My name is Michelle. (Some comments may be made about the environment.) I am here to talk to you and ask some questions. (Proceed to ask some neutral questions.) I also want to ask you questions about you and your family. This is really important so that I need to remember what we talk about. This machine will help me do that. I will put it here on the table. I will start it…today is Friday, July 12th. It is 9:30 AM and I am with Garrett Jones at his home in Blue Hill. Now let’s see if this machine is working."


5-10 years old

"Hello Samantha! My name is Michelle, Michelle Fortin. I have come here this morning to ask you some questions about you and your family. (More statements are made while trying to set the child at ease.) While we are together, I will be taking notes and will be taping our meeting so that I can be sure to remember the things that we talk about. This is the recorder that I will be using. I will put it right here so that I can be sure what we say can be recorded. (For a younger child, it may be necessary to further explain what recording means.) One should record the rest of the interview from this point on. The interviewer starts by recording…."today is Monday, July 16th at 9:30 AM. I am sitting with Samantha Brown at Whitefield Elementary School. Now let’s check to see if this recorder is working."



I am pleased to meet you Susan. Thank you for meeting with me. My name is Henry Cabot. I work for DHS and have come to meet with you today to talk about you and your family-what it’s been like for you since your mother came back from the hospital. I will be asking you questions to get some information about you and your family. Is very important that I remember all that we talk about. So, I will be taking notes and making a recording of our meeting.



Assessing Child Suggestibility


Creating a neutral environment
oAvoidance of interviewer confirmation bias
oAppropriate use of authority
oGround rules


Avoiding use of suggestive techniques
oAsking suggestive questions
oAsking leading questions
oAsking alternative hypothesis questions
oExploring for meaning and certainty
oAsking forced choice questions
oAsking repeated questions
oStereotype inducement
oAvoiding social reinforcement
oAvoiding imagined scenarios


Testing a child’s vulnerability to suggestibility (prior to abuse focused interviewing or rapport building)
oAsking a question that you know a child can’t really answer
oMake an incorrect statement about what a child has made to see if that is recognized and corrected



Practice Considerations: Parental Notification


Under Maine Law, parents are not able to determine whether or not their child’s interview will be recorded. Therefore, the caseworker will not include the fact that the interview is likely to be recorded when providing parental notification of a child interview. The parents will be informed of the recording during the first fact finding interview the caseworker has with the parents. It may be prudent to inform the parents at the end of the first fact finding portion of the parent’s interview. This is to avoid having the sole focus of the parent’s interview becoming what the child said in the interview and gaining access by the parent to the interview recording.


Parental requests for access to the interview are to be handled according to the policy (Section XIII, Case Records, Subsection B) governing parental access to Bureau records.





On this date (the date will have been previously indicated) I interviewed 12-year-old John Mathews at the Lewiston Junior high school for the purpose of completing a safety assessment. Detective James Maller from the Lewiston Police Department was present to complete a joint interview. This Interview was completed without prior parental notification.


When the initial introductions occurred, John was noticeably apprehensive and asked if he was going to get into any trouble. (He was not aware that a referral had been made.) After a normal period of engagement, John’s comfort level increased. His responses to neutral, non-abuse focused elaboration questions were very informative and free flowing. His receptive and expressive language skills were normal for his age and stage of development. Often John would take some time to reflect before answering a question. Within a short period of time, John demonstrated an excitement and confidence talking about his school experiences. When he was presented with non-abuse but focused questions about his family, John said, "I don’t like talking about James (mother’s live-in boyfriend)…he’s real rough with me and my sister". When asked, "How is James rough", John responded, " he spanks real hard and he calls us bad names". When asked to talk about all that happened last weekend, John stated, "My mom was at Grampy’s, James was in a bad mood and didn’t want us to watch TV, I asked him if I could go outside, he got up and spanked me in the face real hard, I cried, Millie (10 year old sister) told the jerk to stop, he pushed her real hard on the floor, he’s always mean, even when mom is home, I wish he’d leave." When asked what James does that is mean, John said, "he always yells calls us dinks and trouble makers, sometimes his tells my mom to shut up." John said, "we are all afraid of him, he’s worse than my dad, he (dad) never would hit us just sometimes my mom". John went on to explain how his parents were divorced, that his dad now lived in Vermont, that they didn’t see him very often.


John also disclosed that James drank a lot of beer that his mood and treatment of all the family members worsened during those times. John said that his mother had told him and Millie that they should try "not to make James mad". John told his mother that sometimes he thinks of running away to his grandparents but he doesn’t want to leave his mother and sister behind. This child reported that the best time in his life was when he and Millie were alone with their mom. They were alone for over a year. During this time John, Millie and their mom spent a lot of time together, played games, went to the movies and visited with relatives on a regular basis. That was the time that he did his best with schoolwork. John did not disclose any other type of child abuse, neglect.


John was noticeably angry, frustrated and worried about all that was happening to him and his family since James had joined the family. John did not feel hopeful that matters would improve on their own. He wished that he could do more to make it safe for Mom and his sister.


John’s disclosures related to his family and the maltreatment was very convincing and credible. It was during family focused questioning that he disclosed about emotional, physical abuse and his mother’s neglect (FTP). He provided spontaneous information and details in response to general and clarifying interviewer questioning. The only person that John had talked to about his maltreatment was his grandfather who did not ask him any questions. Upon hearing about the way John feared James and the reasons why, he referred the matter to CPS.


John expressed concern that his sister, Millie would be hesitant to talk to anyone about what was happening at their home. He was worried that his mother would be angry that he had talked to us about what James had done. John was worried how James would treat him once he was talked to about the allegations