2333. Interviewing a Victim or Identified Child

Approval:  Connie Lambert-Eckel, Acting Assistant Secretary

Original Date: 

Revised Date:  July 1, 2018

Policy Review:  July 1, 2023


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  Children’s services workers, hiring and training

RCW 26.44.030  Reports, duty and authority to made, duty of receiving agency, duty to notify, case planning and consultation, penalty for unauthorized exchange of information, filing dependency petitions, investigations, interviews of children, records, risk assessment process

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. Caseworkers and investigators must comply with the county protocol and collaborate with law enforcement and others on the investigation, per the protocol, and on coordinating the interview of children who have been physically or sexually abused.
  3. 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 for emergent response.
      2. 72-hour for non-emergent response.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. 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 2310 IFF policy.
  4. Prior to the investigative 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. Conduct a comprehensive interview with every victim or identified child who is developmentally able to communicate within ten calendar days from the date and time the intake is received if not already completed at the IFF.
    4. Additional requirements
      The DCFS caseworker or DLR/CPS investigator will
      1. Review all the allegations, child abuse or neglect (CA/N) history and available information to prepare for the IFF and interview.
      2. Coordinate interviews of physical abuse, sexual 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. When interviewing children in their home, choose as neutral environment as possible and in a location separate from the parent or legal guardian.
      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, they may conduct the child abuse interview in the child’s language per DSHS Administrative Policy 18.82 located on the DSHS intranet.
  5. During the interview
    The DCFS caseworker or DLR/CPS investigator must:
    1. Avoid saying or doing anything that could be construed as leading, suggestive, 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 their environment.
    4. To ensure that the interviews are voluntary, complete the following:
      1. Ask the child during the introduction, if they agree to the interview.
      2. Ask the child if they want another adult present during the interview. Make reasonable efforts to accommodate the child’s wishes if they indicate 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. Inform any other adult prior to the interview starting and away from the child that they may be called as a witness to the interview.
      5. Ask the child, during the interview, if they would like 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 CA/N.
  6. 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. When any child on an open case is believed to be at imminent risk of serious harm or there is a new allegation of CA/N, the assigned caseworker must make a report to intake.
    4. 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.
    5. If a child interview was audio recorded, follow the 2350. Audio Recording policy.
    6. If CA staff receives a request for a copy of or to listen to an audio or video recording of a child interview conducted by the department staff must:
      1. Determine if the request is a public disclosure or discovery request. If the request is related to litigation with which CA is involved (such as a dependency, termination, guardianship, or tort case), then the caseworker must consult with the assigned AAG to determine if the request is a discovery request.
      2. If the request is a public disclosure request, then immediately forward it to the Public Disclosure Coordinator per the 13722 Public Records Request – Responsibility of all CA Staff policy.
      3. If the request is a discovery request, made by a party to the case,  follow chapter 13700 Record Accuracy, Privacy and Disclosure policies. If the request seeks release of or access to an audio or video recording of a child forensic interview, then consult with the assigned AAG or attorney before providing the recording
  7. The supervisor must confirm:
    1. All child victims or identified children were interviewed.
    2. Allegations of CA/N were addressed.
    3. Children not a victim or identified child in the intake 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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