Rita Farrell, a Hoosier native of Hamilton County, now works in Bentonville, Arkansas with the Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center. Rita posed a question to a room of 82 CAC team members in Noblesville, Indiana: “How do we defend what we testify [in court]?”. Rita came back to Indiana for a two day training event for forensic interviewers, prosecutors, Department of Child Services family case managers, prosecutors and law enforcement officers to help answer that question.
Rita shared her experiences working with children in forensic interviewers coupled with her deep understanding of new and emerging trends and techniques for interviewers. A new training protocol, “Child First”, aims to help interviewers learn best practices and evidence-based methods to help defend testimony. “This is really the newest and follows many national protocols. It takes a holistic approach to interviewing children.”
While many interviewers may focus on a specific form of maltreatment, like sexual abuse, Child First will allow interviewers to think more about other maltreatment and have the flexibility to gather more evidence to help the child. Child First might be utilized in a situation where a child is being interviewed for alleged sexual assault with a focus on one suspect, but ensuring there isn’t an additional trafficking charge that needs to be investigated along with several other possible suspects in multiple jurisdictions. “I don’t want any of us to miss something,” Rita said.
“We have to have a purpose in forensic interviewing,” Rita continued. Interviews must be neutral, fact-finding interactions that respond to allegations of maltreatment.”