2333. Interviewing a Victim or Identified Child

Approval:  Jennifer Strus, Assistant Secretary

Original Date: 

Revised Date:  March 31, 2017

Policy Review:  March 31, 2021


Purpose

To provide direction to Division of Children and Family Services caseworkers and Division of Licensed Resources investigators when interviewing a victim or identified child who has been allegedly abused or neglected or is at imminent risk.

Scope

This policy applies to CA staff.

Laws

RCW 74.14B.010

RCW 26.44.030

Policy

  1. Before conducting interviews and assessments of children alleged to have been seriously physically or sexually abused, the Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) caseworker or Division of Licensed Resources /Child Protective Services (DLR/CPS) investigator must complete the specialized training per RCW 74.14B.010.
  2. When conducting interviews, the DCFS caseworker or DLR/CPS investigator must:
    1. Make an initial face-to-face (IFF) present danger assessment with the victim or identified child per the 2310. IFF policy. The IFF is required within the following timeframes from the date and time Children’s Administration (CA) receives the intake:
      1. 24-hour emergent response.
      2. 72-hour non-emergent response.
    2. Conduct a comprehensive interview with every victim or identified child who has the ability to communicate within ten calendar days from the date and time the intake is received if not already completed at the IFF.
    3. Complete a face-to-face present danger assessment of children who are not a victim or identified child in the intake although are related to the household. Gather information to complete the safety assessment.
    4. Assess if present danger exists during any contact with a child to determine if an immediate, significant and clearly observable behavior or situation is actively occurring and is threatening or dangerous to a child. Take immediate protective action if a child is in present danger.
    5. Follow the Washington State federally recognized tribe’s Memorandum of Understanding, if applicable, when interviewing a child who may be affiliated with a federally recognized tribe.
    6. When a child cannot be located and reasonable efforts have been exhausted, or face-to-face contact cannot occur, consult with the supervisor and follow the IFF policy.
  3. Prior to the interview
    1. The DCFS caseworker conducting the investigative interview or DLR/CPS investigator must interview the child outside the presence of his or her parent, caregiver, alleged perpetrator and sibling or other children living in the household. The interview may be conducted at a school, child care facility, child's home, etc. CA staff cannot transport children for an interview unless the child has been placed in protective custody by law enforcement first or the court has ordered shelter care or the child is dependent.
    2. Parent or Legal Guardian Permission
      1. The FAR caseworker must obtain the parent’s permission prior to the IFF and interview unless the child’s safety or the integrity of the assessment would be compromised if the parent was notified prior to the completion of the IFF.
      2. The DLR/CPS investigator must obtain the parent’s permission prior to the IFF and interview if the child is not in CA care and custody.
    3. Additional requirements
      The DCFS caseworker or DLR/CPS investigator will
      1. Review all the allegations, CA/N history and available information to prepare for the IFF and interview.
      2. Coordinate interviews of physical abuse, sex abuse or criminal neglect of a child per the county child abuse investigation protocol located on the CA intranet. Protocols may authorize an interview of the child by law enforcement, a child advocacy center, another agency or forensic interviewer.
      3. Conduct the interview in a neutral environment, e.g., school, child care, whenever possible.
      4. Refer to Operations 4320. Limited English Proficiency (LEP) policy when working with a child with LEP. If the caseworker is bilingual and has passed the required DSHS Bilingual Skills Test(s)/Assessment, he or she may conduct the child abuse interview in the child’s language per DSHS Administrative Policy 18.82 located on the DSHS intranet.
  4. During the interview
    The DCFS caseworker or DLR/CPS investigator must:
    1. Avoid saying or doing anything that could be construed as leading or influencing the child.
    2. Make reasonable efforts to audio record child interviews when there is:
      1. A CPS investigation involving allegations of physical or sexual abuse.
      2. A CPS family assessment involving a physical abuse allegation, and the child is being interviewed without his or her parent present due to concerns that the safety of the child will be compromised if the parent is present.
      3. Use near verbatim documentation if a child physical or sexual abuse interview is not being audio recorded.
    3. Gather relevant and sufficient information; including observations of the child’s appearance and non-verbal communication, to complete the safety and risk assessments to determine:
      1. If there are safety threats.
      2. How the child and family are functioning.
      3. Level of risk to the child in his or her environment.
    4. To ensure that the interviews are voluntary, complete the following:
      1. Ask the child during the introduction, if he or she agrees to the interview.
      2. Ask the child if he or she wants another adult present during the interview. Make reasonable efforts to accommodate the child’s wishes if he or she indicates yes.
      3. Make a reasonable effort to have the interview observed by another adult so long as the child does not object and the presence of the other adult will not intrude in the interview or jeopardize the investigation.
      4. Ask the child, during the interview, if it is okay to continue or if he or she wants a break. This can be done if the child appears uncomfortable during the interview, or at any time.
    5. Follow 6500. Photograph Documentation policy when photographing a child’s physical condition to document child abuse or neglect.
  5. After the interview
    The CA caseworker or DLR/CPS investigator must:
    1. Notify the parent of the interview at the earliest possible point in the investigation that will not jeopardize the safety or protection of the child or the course of the investigation.
    2. Document the interview, including the child’s appearance and non-verbal communication, in FamLink within three calendar days of the completion of the interview. If the interview is documented in near-verbatim, document the interview within fifteen calendar days of the completion of the interview.
    3. Follow the 2350. Audio Recording policy when documenting the interview and ensure the information is in FamLink within ten calendar days of the completion of the interview.
    4. When any child on an open case is believed to be at imminent risk of serious harm or there is a new allegation of child abuse or neglect, the assigned caseworker must make a report to intake.
    5. If during the child interview, there is information about a crime against a child and the caseworker believes the child is in danger, the caseworker must call 911 and make a law enforcement report. If the child is not believed to be in danger, the caseworker will make a report to intake.
  6. The supervisor must confirm:
    1. All child victims or identified children were interviewed.
    2. Allegations of child abuse and neglect were addressed.
    3. Children who are not a victim or identified child who are related to the household, had a face-to-face present danger assessment before the safety assessment was completed.
    4. Child interviews and contacts were documented in FamLink.

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