The Woodward News

Local News

December 6, 2007

Training helps officials in interviewing children

For those involved in law enforcement and child protection agencies, knowing how to interview children effectively is essential when it comes to combating child abuse.

In order to improve their interviewing skills, a number of law enforcement and child protection officials gathered in Woodward to attend Forensic Interviewer Training presented by interviewing expert Ann Ahlquist.

The training is being presented in three different sessions--basic, advanced, and mastery--over a two-week period at High Plains Technology Center.

Participants from Midwest City and Kingfisher Police departments, Woodward County and Garfield County Sheriff’s Offices, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, and Child Welfare completed a three-day basic course Wednesday by conducting practice interviews.

While the ultimate goal of the training is to better enable officials to interview children about being abused or neglected or other traumatic experiences, the practice interviews did not deal with those subjects.

Instead, right before the interview, the child was asked to interact with a special doll. For example, one child was asked to place the doll in a chair.

During each interview, two of the trainees practiced their interviewing skills by trying to obtain information from the child about his or her life as well as the child’s interaction with the doll. The children were asked about who was in their families, what things were in their bedrooms and what they could remember about the doll.

As they asked questions, the trainees used a special cognitive graphic method, in which they used drawings to help the children create “maps” of their experiences. Either the trainees or the child would draw pictures to represent what information the child was providing, such as faces of the child’s family or a map of his or her room.

Ahlquist explained that mapping is important because children’s “verbal skills aren’t always the best.”

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