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  • Fostering Knowledge, Increasing Confidence, Enhancing Careers

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  • Multidisciplinary Interviewing of Child Abuse Victims (MDI)


Multi-Disciplinary Child Interviews are crucial in child sexual abuse investigations. Similar to certified forensic interviewer training, this course is an introductory course designed to understand the evolution of child interviewing protocols and best practices.

The course provides guidance on the best interviewing techniques, common pitfalls and how to get the most detail out of interviewing witnesses and victims while minimizing the victim’s trauma after the abuse. The target audience for this course range from patrol officers who are the first point of contact for abuse victims, to social workers and investigators who are doing more in-depth investigations. Techniques taught in this course will help with all victim interviews, as the techniques have been shown to increase the quality and quantity of the details victims provide. We will also cover how the evidence you collect gets presented to the jury and what additional evidence/investigation can be done to put forth the strongest case. Further, we will examine characteristics of our child molestation suspects and types of evidence that you can collect to help the jury understand how he fits into the profiles we know about child molesters.  We will also review the elements of the sexual assault crimes and what evidence is needed to prove those elements. We will discuss additional evidence collection and techniques and how those are relayed to the jury to give you a better understanding of the value of that evidence and how it is presented, including the interview of the victim, locating and interviewing past victims for 1108 evidence, fresh complaint witnesses, DNA, SART exams, photographs, and pretext phone calls.  Discussed, as well, will be an overview of the Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome to give you an idea of information to seek out in interviews and how that information is interpreted for the jury in connection to CSAAS evidence. And lastly, we will cover how your investigative techniques and qualifications are best presented to the jury.

Course Outline

Day One

The Child/The Beginning Two Stages of the Interview Process:

Stage 1: Rapport Building

  • Setting: Composition of room
  • Getting to know the child
  • Rapport building questions
  • Where to begin
  • Pre-Interview Information Gathering
  • Primary Questions – Age, School, Family
  • Secondary Questions – Relationship oriented questions about family
  • Begin to assess developmental stages
  • Assess developmental capabilities during rapport building
  • Show interest verbally and non-verbally
  • Explain roles and expectations
  • Interviewer’s role
  • Give child permission to correct interviewer
  • Setting up Ground rules

Stage 2: Developmental Assessment

  • Demonstrate Developmental Competency
  • Truth/Lie
  • Developmental Screening
  • Language Development assessment
  • Ages and Stages of Child Development
  • What to expect and how to relate to children of different ages
  • Anecdotes about developmental stages and understanding  Pitfalls: Pleasing/Impressing the Interviewer
  • Credibility
  • Assess with questions

The Child: The last Two Stages of the Interview Process

Stage 3: Fact-Finding, The 4 W’s

  • Who
  • What happened
  • When
  • Where
  • How

Development of Fact Finding Skills

  • I don’t know instruction
  • I don’t understand instruction
  • Questions to Ask
  • Obtaining Factual Information
  • Open Ended Questions
  • False Allegations – Be aware of this possibility and assess credibility
  • Custody Battles/Family History
  • Child’s Reliability/Forensics and Credibility
  • Open Ended/ Focused/Leading Questions

Factors Affecting the Interview

  • Avoid child’s lunch/nap time/other distractions
  • Factors of the Adolescent Interview
  • Fear of being labeled/Shame

Stage 4: Closure/Termination with the Child

  • Thank the child
  • Thanks v. Praise
  • Leave the door open for future interviews
  • Acknowledge
  • Validate
  • Provide what will happen next
  • Provide opportunity for child to ask questions
  • Avoid dishonest responses
  • Contact Information
  • Provide child with phone number/access to you

Interview Techniques:

  • Gear toward child
  • Let child do the talking; be an attentive listener
  • Normalize experience
  • Let the child know that he/she is not alone
  • Check your own feelings
  • Conceal shock/biases
  • Don’t Rush
  • No time constraint
  • Thank child, Don’t praise
  • Keep it Simple
  • Use language the child can understand
  • Avoid abstract terms
  • Details
  • Avoid compound/complex questions


  • Quiet and Private
    Neutral: Strongly consider Child Interview Center Kid Friendly
  • Avoid child’s home
  • No distractions
  • Not too many toys, games, T.V., noise, etc.
  • No phones
  • Distraction
  • Help child to familiarize setting
  • Show them around the place, where they will sit, what will take place

Cultural Competency

  • Cultural sensitivity
  • Awareness
  • Impact on interview

Assessing Current Level of Risk

  • Risk Factors
  • If child discloses, must assess safety of child
  • Does child live with perpetrator?
  • Is one parent the sole provider?
  • Staying neutral
  • Don’t take sides
  • Remain impartial fact gatherer

Some Do’s and Don’ts:

  • Open Minded
  • You only know what you know
  • Don’t make promises or threats
  • Assessment/Interview Plan
  • Formulate plan before the interview
  • Which child will you interview first?
  • What questions will you ask?
  • Acceptance
  • You won’t always get a clear answer

Truth of Allegations

  • Recognize that allegations are not always true
  • Positive Environment
  • Confidence, Patience, Calm, Acceptance
  • Awareness of own reactions
  • Thank child for effort, not content
  • Don’t Teach
  • Don’t do therapy
  • No rewards or promises

Day Two

Forensic Interviewing of Child Abuse Victims

  • Fact Finding to Establish the Elements of Crimes
  • Child Molest – Disclosure
  • Why it matters
  • Common circumstances = accidental, rite of passage, emotional trauma, protection of younger siblings

Interviewing the reporting party

  • Anticipating the defense

Child Molest – Force

  • Force and duress distinguished
  • Proving force and duress
  • Sentencing consequences
  • Child Molest – Other Victims
  • Locating and interviewing other victims
  • Do not assume police reports for other victims are accurate
  • Admissibility of prior offenses under Evidence Code section 1108
  • Keep victims separate and ignorant of each other

Child Molest – Corroboration

  • Crime scene investigation
  • Pretext phone calls to suspect
  • Non-abusive caretaker – No marital communication or witness privilege applies

Child Molest – Time Frame

  • Use a child’s frame of reference
  • Holidays, birthdays, school years, residences
  • Confirm with non-abusive caretaker
  • Needed for statute of limitations
  • Needed for effective date of new crimes (ex post facto rule)

Child Molest – Crimes

  • Traditional – Penal Code section 288(a), 288(b), 288.5 and 266j
    – Misdemeanor 647.6
  • Modified – Penal Code section 269 as of January 1, 2007
  • New – Penal Code sections 288.3 and 288.7, effective January 1, 2007

Child Molest – Testifying

  • Defending the Interview
  • Use free recall, open ended questions, emphasize importance of telling the truth
  • Do not ask leading questions
  • Videotape should show both interviewer and child
  • Use the child’s vocabulary

Child Molest – Testifying as an Expert Witness

  • Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome
  • Helplessness, Secrecy, Accommodation, Delayed Disclosure, Retraction

Forensic Interviews of Children

  • Qualities of a good (and poor) interview
  • “Red flags” in a child’s statement
  • Juror Issues and how they affect your investigation
  • Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome
  • Case Study
  • Effective teaching teams! The presentation of the material was consistently interesting, and intelligent without being too intellectualized.

    —Michele Keller, Deputy Probation Officer, County of Alameda
  • Your training has made the greatest and most direct impact on my assignment of any training class that I've taken.

    —Ken Gelskey, National City Police Department
  • Incredible training with amazing real world instruction. I have been taking law enforcement classes for over 30 years and by far this is the best presented and most useful.

    —Det. Brian Dale, Portland Police Bureau
  • This was, by far, one of the most useful training classes I've attended since becoming an investigator.

    —Steven Aiello, Antioch Police Department
  • Instructional style is engaging and highly effective.

    —George Laing, Fire Prevention Captain, Investigator
  • Your training gave me the confidence and tools to interview the suspect for over 5 hours and to bring a closure to the case.

    —Daniel Phelan, San Jose Police Department
  • This training provided the useful tools necessary for assessing the veracity of a suspected child abuser, which goes a long way in helping to protect children.

    —Sunny Burgan, MSSW, LCSW, Social Work Supervisor, Santa Clara County DFCS
  • This was, by far and away the best training I have received in 15 plus years of Law Enforcement. The instructors are experienced, engaging, articulate, and very entertaining. I will be recommending this training to multiple agencies.

    —Mark Paynter, Oregon DOC
  • The information presented was highly relevant to my job and was presented in a manner that was organized and very easy to digest.

    —Michael McGarvey, California State Prison, San Quentin
  • I will continue to use and pass on this information because I really believe in the instructors and their approach.

    —Kimberly Meyer, Washoe County Sheriff's Department
  • It not often that you go to a training that you really, really want to pay attention to. Because of the high quality information and style of presentation, I knew that if I looked away I was going to miss out.

    —Quinten Graves, Oregon State Police
  • I highly recommend this training for any Probation staff who have the necessity to interview/interrogate individuals for investigation purposes.

    —R. Bret Fidler, Santa Clara County Probation Department
  • This training by far has been the most informative and most effective I've attended. The instructors engaged the students in a manner that made me want to speak my opinion, ask questions, and participate.

    —Julio Ibarra, Merced County Sheriff’s Office