A Blended Model of Forensic Interviewing is practiced at the Calgary and Area Child Advocacy Centre (CCAC), where interviews are conducted by law enforcement or specially trained forensic interviewers.
Dr. Sarah MacDonald, with the CCAC since 2017, provided the following information about their practice:
- At the CCAC, interviews are conducted with children as young as 3 years old up to age 17. Special considerations are taken with preschoolers and interviewers are cognizant of their shorter attention span, language abilities, and developmental considerations.
- All forensic interviews are audio/video recorded. This preserves the child/youth’s statement and documents the demeanor displayed in the interview. Recording of the interview reduces the number of times a child needs to tell their story.
- Most forensic interviews at the CCAC are conducted by Calgary Police Services and the RCMP. Many of the police officers have extensive experience in the area.
- Sarah MacDonald, a Forensic Interview Specialist, upon request, conducts forensic interviews for Calgary Police, RCMP, and on occasion, for other police organizations in Southern Alberta. Sarah is employed by the non-profit entity of the CCAC.
- In addition to Sarah’s role, two Children’s Services assessors provide forensic interview services as part of their role on the Joint Investigative Child Abuse Team (JICAT). Both have extensive interviewing experience. The addition of these new forensic interviewer roles, with Sarah’s position, has shifted the Centre’s approach towards a blended model of forensic interview practices (i.e., interviews are conducted by law enforcement or specially trained forensic interviewers). All forensic interviewers are required to participate in training prior to completing interviews with children.
- All forensic interviews, whether conducted by law enforcement or a forensic interviewer, are monitored by a police officer, typically the primary investigator on the file. This allows for the interviewer to take breaks to consult with law enforcement and to ensure all criminal elements are covered off.
- Interviewers (law enforcement and forensic interviewers) at the CCAC participate in an in-house peer review session every month. An interview is brought forward by a member who identifies a 15-20 minute section they have struggled with (e.g., perhaps the transition from introduction to the reason why the child is there). After that section is played for the group, all members have the chance to provide feedback and ideas. Peer review is essential for maintaining skills and is beneficial for all who attend.
- Sarah notes that Joint training in forensic interview best practices facilitates inter-agency collaboration and fosters an understanding of each other’s roles in a child abuse investigation.
Best practice forensic interview training is established in the literature to be narrative-based.