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What is a forensic interview?
Forensic interviewing conducted by the Children’s Advocacy Center of the 13th Judicial Circuit is a first step in investigations, one in which a specially trained interviewer interviews a child to find out if he or she has been the victim of abuse.  The interview is viewed by a multi-disciplinary team (law enforcement, child protection, medical, victim’s advocacy) so they can gather the information they need to keep the child safe and provide additional services. In addition to obtaining the information needed to make a determination about whether abuse or neglect has occurred, this approach produces evidence that will stand up in court if the investigation leads to criminal prosecution or leads to termination of parental rights. Properly conducted forensic interviews are legally sound in part because they ensure the interviewer’s objectivity, employ non-leading techniques and emphasize careful documentation of the interview.


Will my child have to participate in more than one forensic interview?
The goal of the CAC model is to put the child’s needs first, for most children this means limiting the number of times a child speaks about a traumatic event. Sometimes, it is the child’s best interest to break up the interview into smaller sessions. The multi-disciplinary team of professionals will make the decision based on what is best for your child.

Who will speak with my child?
Your child will speak with a forensic interviewer. The interviewer has a special training and experience with talking to children about difficult subjects. Your child’s need come first and the interviewer’s goal is to make your child as comfortable as possible. Questions are asked in a non-threatening and non-leading manner. The interviewer moves at a pace that is comfortable with your child and never forces a child to talk to them.

Where is the forensic interview conducted?
Forensic Interviews are conducted at the Children’s Advocacy Center, located at 2806 N. Armenia Avenue Tampa, Florida 33607. The Children’s Advocacy Center is a child-friendly, safe environment. Forensic Interviewing services can only be requested by law enforcement and appointments are required to gain access to our facilities.

How should I prepare my child for the forensic interview?
You might tell your child, “You and I are going to the Children’s Advocacy Center. It is a special place where kids go to talk. There will be a person there who talks to lots of kids about what happens to them and that person will be talking to you too.” You might also consider telling your child, “That person will need to know everything that you remember so that we can make sure you are safe and O.K. It is important that you tell the truth and only talk about what really happened.” It is important for you to tell your child, “YOU ARE NOT IN ANY TROUBLE.”

What happens during the forensic interview?
When you and your child arrive, you will wait in the family room. The family room has a TV, books, and toys. A separate interview room is designed to make your child feel comfortable. The room has a video camera and microphones in the ceiling. Before hand the forensic teams gathers to discuss the case at hand. The child is escorted to a private room with the child by the forensic interviewer. Upon beginning the interview the forensic interviewer explains why they are there, shows them the cameras and explains that there are microphones in the room. Additionally, the forensic interviewer explains that the interview is being recorded and that they are wearing an IFB device; which enables the forensic team watching the interview (from another room) to speak directly to interviewer so that they are able to relay and additional questions by the forensic team without the child being able to hear them. This limits the child’s contact to one person during the interview process.

Who does the “forensic team” consist of?
Typically , the team consists of a law enforcement detective and the child protection investigator. If the case necessitates, a guardian ad litem, the Child Protection Team, a representative from the State Attorney’s Office and / or the Office of the attorney General, Children’s Legal Services and the Child Advocate from  CAC may also be part of the “forensic team” viewing the interview.

May I watch the forensic interview?
No, only those people who are directly involved in the investigation are allowed to observe the interview. This is done for two reasons; first is to create a neutral setting to reduce the possible stress that can be placed on a child. Second, is to avoid any influence the child’s statements may have on your own knowledge of the crime as you may or may not have been a witness. This may come into question during the prosecution phase of the case. You may bring a support person to wait with you during the interview. This person may then wait with the child when you have your opportunity to discuss any questions or concerns with the investigative team upon completion of the interview. Upon request, the staff may provide you with support during the interview.

Why is the forensic interview videotaped?
To reduce the number of times a child is asked investigative questions regarding allegations of abuse, a joint investigative  interview is conducted and the interview is recorded.   The interview is recorded and stored digitally. If requested, a copy of the interview is released to law enforcement and then becomes official evidence in the case and follows the chain of custody guidelines for evidence.

May I watch the video of my child’s interview?
The video cannot be viewed if there is an active criminal investigation.

Who will watch the video of my child’s interview?
The interview will watched by other investigative team members. Other professionals involved in the case may watch the child’s interview and this is determined on a case by case basis.

What happens after the forensic interview?
You will talk to Victim’s Advocates from either the CAC or a Case Manager from the Child Protection Team while your child is being interviewed. After the interview the Investigative Team will tell you, in general terms, what they learned from the interview. You will have the opportunity to ask questions and voice your concerns. When the team is finished with their investigation, the detective will send the reports to the State Attorney’s office. The State Attorney will decide whether or not to prosecute, not the child or parent. Your child may have to go to court to testify. If this happens, the Advocate will meet with your child to prepare them.

Will my child need a medical exam?
The investigative team members will decide if your child needs a medical exam. If one is needed, Law Enforcement will contact the Child Protection Team (CPT) to set and appointment. An Advocate will attend this exam with you and your child. You might tell your child, “We are going to see a nurse who takes care of kids. The nurse is not going to hurt you. She just needs to make sure your body is okay.”

If my child needs a medical exam where do I take them? 
Medical exams of children are done at the Child Protection Team located on the 2nd floor of Mary Lee’s House.  Arrangements are made by law enforcement or as requested by law enforcement through the CAC.

May I ask my child about what happened during the forensic interview?
No, not unless your child brings up the subject and wants to talk about it. In that case, listen to your child without commenting or questioning. Be sure to reassure your child that he/she will be alright. If your child tells you something that alarms or upsets you, contact the CPT  or CAC Advocate.

Should I get counseling for my child?
Yes. Children may be uncomfortable discussing the abuse with their parents because of shame or guilt. Children dislike seeing their parents upset or angry. Therefore, they may try to protect their parents by not telling them about the abuse. Children may interpret a parent’s negative emotions with the situation as negative feelings toward the child. Reassure your child that you are not upset with them, rather that you are upset with the situation. For the above reasons, it is important to give your child the opportunity to talk with a professional. Children have different needs that must be addressed from the incident to recovery. Should negative emotions and reactions to the abuse remain untreated, or if the child cannot properly express discomfort; a child will only experience greater suffering and trauma. Mental health therapists can apply their special training, knowledge, and experience to help ensure that your child recovers as quickly as possible. Family counseling is also a valuable tool in the road to recovery. Allowing your child to talk to a professional child therapist is a positive step toward healing. The CPT or CAC Advocate will link you to the mental health services that will help your child recover.