The Intersection of Technology and Forensic Interviewing, with Dr. Debra Poole and Dr. Jason Dickinson

Season 2Episode 11May 28, 2020

In cases of suspected child abuse, can children be interviewed remotely, or must the interview be done in person?

Before anyone had ever heard of COVID-19, professors at Central Michigan University and Montclair State University were examining whether forensic interviewers could use telehealth technology to connect with children in remote or rural service areas in cases where child abuse was suspected. It was interesting research but not particularly urgent, because whatever their findings, most forensic interviews would still be conducted face-to-face. Then the pandemic hit.

Forensic interviews are conducted by specially trained individuals who must talk to children about abuse allegations in ways that are unbiased, fact-finding, legally sound, and not traumatizing. With communities across the country shutting down, we needed to know: Are teleforensic interviews as accurate and effective as face-to-face interviews? And are children OK with them? We talked to professors Debra Poole and Jason Dickinson to find out what they’ve learned.

Topics in this episode:

  • Why research teleforensic interviewing? (1:43)
  • The reaction (before the pandemic) (6:46)
  • A matter of equity; and, what the study found (9:48)
  • Unanswered questions (17:50)
  • Interviewer discomfort (25:03)
  • Building psychological safety (33:12)
  • What additional training will interviewers need? (38:40)
  • What’s next to study? (44:50)
  • Our next episode (49:00)


Jason Dickinson, Ph.D., acting chairperson, Social Work and Child Advocacy, Montclair State University (New Jersey)

Debra Poole, Ph.D., experimental faculty, Department of Psychology, Central Michigan University

Martine Powell, Ph.D., professor, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Griffith University (Brisbane, Australia)

National Science Foundation

Crimson Barocca, LCSW-C, forensic interview program supervisor, Baltimore Child Advocacy Center (Baltimore, Maryland)

Leyla Sandler, MSW, LICSW, forensic services director, Safe Shores, the D.C. Children’s Advocacy Center

TF-CBT, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Mister Rogers

Nicole Lytle, Ph.D., assistant professor, Social Work and Child Advocacy, Montclair State University

Montclair Researchers Aid Child Witnesses With Tele-Forensic Interviewing,” Patch, March 27, 2020

Additional information on teleforensic interviewing at Children’s Advocacy Centers can be found on the COVID-19 resource page on NCA’s website.

Transcript to come.