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Forensic Interviews

Forensic interviews are provided in a safe, child-friendly environment by specially trained professionals. A forensic interview is a neutral, fact-finding interview utilized when there is a concern of abuse, exploitation, neglect, human trafficking, abuse, and other types of trauma.

A forensic interview provides a comfortable, unbiased setting and uses non-suggestive, non-leading interview techniques. This allows a child to tell their story in a safe environment with a neutral, “fact-finding” adult. The interview is conducted in a in a neutral, non-leading, and age-appropriate manner, allowing the child to tell their story in a safe environment to someone forensically trained to ask developmentally appropriate questions that will be admissible in court.

Through coordination of services with our community partner agencies, we are able to minimize the number of interviews a child receives and optimize the child’s comfort level. All investigative parties participate in the interview via closed circuit television so that the child only has to tell their story of abuse one time.


Abuse can be overwhelming to children. Most children are taught to trust adults. An overwhelming majority of abuse occurs by someone known and trusted by the child and family. They tend to believe what adults tell them is true rather than rely on their own feelings.

If the offender tells them that what is being done is okay, they may doubt their own feelings that it is not. If the non-offending caregiver’s initial reaction when they hear the child’s abuse report is “This can’t be true,” the child may wonder if his or her own feelings are mistaken. Children rarely lie about being abused. More often they fear that telling will make people angry with them. It is extremely difficult for children to report abuse.

It is important to provide your child with safety, love and support. Let him or her know it is okay to cry or be angry. It is important for your child to know that the abuse was not their fault. Some children are concerned about how the disclosure will affect their family and loved ones, so it is important to be supportive.

Disclosure can be overwhelming and scary for children, so it is best not to ask a lot of questions. Let your child know that if they need to talk, that you will be there to listen and answer any of their questions.

The chances of recovery for your child are much greater if you do all you can to support them. If you feel torn between loyalty to your child and loyalty to the offender, find a professional to help you sort out those feelings.

Adapted from: When Your Child Has Been Molested by Kathryn B. Hagan

What to Say and Do

Wondering how to talk to your child about the interview, here are some recommendations:


  • Tell the child about their appointment. A caregiver may say, “People who talk to a lot of children will be visiting with you about …”
  • Tell the child to speak the truth.
  • Avoid asking questions about the abuse allegations.
  • Reassure the child that you will be there to help no matter what happens and that they are not in trouble.


  • Discuss the investigation in the child’s presence.
  • Tell children they are coming to play.
  • Lie to the child in any way about the allegations or scare them.
  • Offer the child a bribe for telling about what happened.

Tell your child that they will be meeting with someone who talks to children about very difficult things and even though they’ve told things to you (or to someone else), it’s important that they speak to the interviewer as well.

Give your child enough notice so that they do not feel it is a surprise to them, but also do not give them too long a time period to worry about what they may have to do. Usually, a day or two is enough time for them to feel comfortable with this appointment.

Tell them that you honestly do not know exactly what will be asked, but all they have to do is be honest. Reassure your child that the person they are talking to is very friendly, and wants them to feel comfortable. If at any point your child wants to stop the interview, they just have to say so. It is important to give your child permission to talk about what they have disclosed. Do not tell your child what to say.

Tell your child that you might not know what questions to ask and how to ask them. And also tell them that because you love them so much, sometimes parents ask the kinds of questions that are about feelings instead of about the facts, which is why this special interviewer needs to do the asking. Assure them that they are not in any trouble and remind them how brave they are for letting someone know that someone else has done something wrong.

Be honest with your child; let them know that they will be in the interview room only with the interviewer who works with children and teens. You can let your child know that while they are talking, you are going to be meeting with someone who works at The Children’s Advocacy Center to get information on helping to keep them safe.

Tell your child that you understand their feelings of frustration, especially since it is a difficult thing to talk about. But also tell them how brave they were for telling in the first place and how proud you are of their honesty and bravery. Remind them since they were so brave, they are going to be helping keep other children safe by telling the adults who are in charge of keeping all children safe.

Family Advocacy

Family Advocates help parents understand the system and professionals involved and connect children and families with resources in their community. Initial and on-going advocacy services are provided to all families receiving services at the Red River Children’s Advocacy Center.

Research has shown that the number one predictor of a child healing from an abusive situation is the initial supportive response from their primary caregiver. The Red River Children’s Advocacy Center offers advocacy services to all families seen at the center to help them through the difficult time and learn how to support their child. Advocacy services include, but are not limited to, information, referral, education, support, assistance with the criminal justice process, and assistance with personal needs such as transportation, clothing and food.


The Red River Children’s Advocacy Center believes that all children who have been abused or neglected deserve to have access to a medical exam. The medical exams identify any medical issues that need attention (such as sexually transmitted infections, fractures, etc.) and provide reassurance to the caregiver and the child regarding any concerns they might have about the child’s body. While the RRCAC does not provide on-site medical services, providers specializing in child abuse pediatrics partner with us to provide services, address medical needs, and address other physical needs.

The medical exam is also an opportunity to identify the need for referrals and other care or services that the child or family might not have otherwise recognized or sought. The medical exam is completed in a child-led, non-traumatic, head-to-toe approach, which is sensitive to each child’s emotional and physical state. 

Exams are usually completed at the Sanford Children’s CARE Clinic in Fargo as needed for acute concerns. Occasionally, exams may happen at Altru in Grand Forks (before the forensic interview) at law enforcement’s discretion.

There often times is a medical professional present during forensic interviews to aid the team with recommendations in care after the interview process.

Any child or adolescent who discloses abuse may be referred for a medical evaluation. Regardless of how long ago the assault occurred, it is important that child and adolescent victims receive a comprehensive medical exam to ensure that they are healthy. It is also important that child and adolescent victims attend all follow up appointments and complete all follow up laboratory testing recommendations. Timely evaluations are particularly important for sexual abuse that occurred within the past 72 hours. In these cases, the medical provider may obtain evidence gathered from the evaluation if appropriate.

Caregivers are welcome to be in the room with the child if that is the child’s preference. Many children and adolescents prefer privacy; in these cases a trained professional chaperones the exam with the medical provider to ensure appropriate care is provided. The medical evaluations are sensitive to the child’s physical and emotional state and a child will not be forced or held down in order to complete the exam. Discussing with your child that a medical exam is an important part of caring for their body in making sure that their body is growing healthy and strong, and consistently giving the message that the child is in charge of their body, even during the exam, can help decrease anxiety about the medical evaluation.

The medical provider will update the caregiver regarding any findings of the child’s evaluation and discuss any recommendations or follow up that needs to happen. In addition, the medical provider will communicate the results of the evaluation to the rest of the multidisciplinary team as appropriate.

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MDT Case Coordination

A Child Advocacy Center (CAC) Multi-disciplinary Team (MDT) is a collaborative approach to addressing cases of child abuse and neglect. These teams are typically comprised of professionals from various disciplines who work together to investigate, prosecute, and provide support to child victims and their families. The primary goal of an MDT within a Child Advocacy Center is to ensure that child victims receive comprehensive and coordinated services in a child-friendly and supportive environment.

The MDT approach allows for information-sharing, joint decision-making, and collaboration among professionals involved in the investigation and response to child abuse cases. By bringing together individuals with different areas of expertise, MDTs can more comprehensively assess the needs of child victims, reduce the trauma associated with the investigative process, and improve outcomes for children and families affected by abuse and neglect. Most importantly reducing the amount of times a child will need to separately disclose their abuse to these professionals.