Working with Child Witnesses

 
9780972142106: Working with Child Witnesses

Working with Child Witnesses is intended for professionals who work with children in the legal system. Through its coverage of proper and improper interview procedures, the dangers of interviewer bias, procedural errors, and relevant developmental issues, this book offers helpful insights and strategies that can be used to faciliate information collection with even the most difficult child witness cases. The book also addresses relevant legal issues, such as child witness competency and child hearsay exceptions, that commonly arise in child witness cases. There also is a chapter that addresses how front-line professionals can increase the effectiveness of their testimony by being familiar with how the legal system operates and by being prepared and organized on the witness stand. Attorneys also may find the book useful in helping to prepare for child depositions or trial testimony as well as for direct and cross-examinations of professionals who have conducted child witness interviews.

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About the Author:

Dr. Sherrie Bourg Carter is a licensed psychologist with a specialization in forensic psychology. Working with Child Witnesses is a product of her extensive experience in the legal system where she has worked with child witnesses since 1990. A leading expert in forensic psychology, Dr. Bourg Carter has handled thousands of cases involving child witnesses and has testified thousands of times as an expert in Federal and State Courts. She also has presented seminars on a variety of forensic topics, including proper and improper interviewing techniques with child witnesses and legal and developmental issues that arise in child witness cases.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

INTRODUCTION

Law enforcement officers and child protection workers come into contact with all types of witnesses in the course of their work - the mentally ill, the traumatized, the irate, the drug impaired - but some of the most challenging witnesses to deal with are children. This is because children talk and think differently than adults, their attention spans are shorter, and their ability to process information and provide information about their experiences is different. To make matters even more difficult, these differences change with age. In other words, interviewing a three-year-old requires different skills and knowledge than does interviewing a seven-year-old than does interviewing a fourteen-year-old. To further compound these difficulties, children with special needs, such as physical disabilities, mental illness, or mental retardation, present additional challenges in that they are likely to require adjustments in interview style, questioning techniques, and procedures.

For these reasons, child interviews can be difficult for even the best trained and most experienced professionals. Therefore, imagine the potential problems that can develop when those who have less experience and training conduct child interviews. Therein lies the problem for many law enforcement officers and child protection workers. Although these professionals are often the first to interview child witnesses, many receive little or no professional training in conducting child interviews. Even those who do get such training often report that they do not think that their training was sufficient (Aldridge & Wood, 1998). This is problematic for several reasons.

First, most cases involving child witnesses are cases in which the child is the alleged victim (Whitcomb, Shapiro, & Stellwagen, 1985). Because crimes against children are considered some of the worst crimes committed in our society, proper training for those who interview child victims is important to secure convictions against those who victimize children. Conversely, because such crimes usually carry severe legal and social consequences for alleged offenders, proper training is important to educate interviewers about factors and situations that may increase the risk of false allegations.

Secondly, the first interview with a child witness can set the stage for all subsequent interviews. Whereas a well-conducted first interview can strengthen a case, a poorly conducted first interview can jeopardize the entire investigation and future decisions made in the case. This is why those groups of professionals who are most likely to perform the first interviews with child witnesses should receive the best training available.

Finally, cases involving child witnesses tend to be some of the most hotly contested cases in the legal system. In most of these cases, the most serious challenges made by attorneys are related to the reliability of the statements made by child witnesses. Moreover, for fear of upsetting the judge or a jury by directly attacking a child witness, an opposing attorney¡¦s challenges and attacks often are launched against those who have interviewed the child (Myers, 1992). Therefore, not only can a poorly conducted child interview lessen the credibility and reliability of a child's statements, it can jeopardize the credibility and reliability of the interviewer and his/her testimony. The purpose of this book is help those who work with child witnesses strengthen their interviewing skills by offering interview-enhancing information, guidelines, and strategies. Many of the references in this book relate to cases involving alleged victims of child sexual abuse. This is because sexual abuse cases are the types of cases in which child witnesses are most frequently encountered. However, most of the techniques and strategies discussed will apply to child witnesses in any type of case.

The book is broken down into four sections:

Interview Issues - addresses proper and improper interview styles, methods, and procedures.

Developmental Issues - addresses the capacities, abilities, and limitations of children at different ages and developmental levels, and offers suggestions as to how to utilize techniques that can enhance their capacities; also includes a section on children with special needs.

Legal Issues - discusses various legal standards that often apply in child witness cases, and discusses how and why these standards should be incorporated into child interviews; also discusses false allegations, distinguishing those arising from deliberate lies versus from false beliefs or memories.

Testimony - outlines typical procedures involved in witness testimony; discusses strategies for preparing for and providing testimony in legal proceedings, including factors that enhance and detract from witness credibility.

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Carter, Sherrie Bourg
Published by Institute for Behavioral Science (2002)
ISBN 10: 097214210X ISBN 13: 9780972142106
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Book Description Institute for Behavioral Science, 2002. Paperback. Book Condition: Good. Item may show signs of shelf wear. Pages may include limited notes and highlighting. Includes supplemental or companion materials if applicable. Access codes may or may not work. Connecting readers since 1972. Customer service is our top priority. Bookseller Inventory # mon0000955813

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Carter, Sherrie Bourg
Published by Institute for Behavioral Science (2002)
ISBN 10: 097214210X ISBN 13: 9780972142106
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Book Description Institute for Behavioral Science, 2002. Paperback. Book Condition: Good. Item may show signs of shelf wear. Pages may include limited notes and highlighting. Includes supplemental or companion materials if applicable. Access codes may or may not work. Connecting readers since 1972. Customer service is our top priority. Bookseller Inventory # mon0000804612

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