Pre-Conference Workshop I

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Forensic Interviewers and Researchers Talk With Each Other and With You

Thirty years of empirical research on forensic interviewing has brought us close to consensus on the basic elements of a forensic interview and helped to establish tenets of best practice in child and adolescent forensic interviewing, which include interview structure, instructions, narrative practice, open transition to topic of concern and evidence based strategies for eliciting details.  However, gaps exist in our scientific knowledge when forensic interviewers must question children with complex histories and with cultural differences impacting cognitive and linguistic habits.  Also, forensic interviewers seek guidance for cases involving children who have made no outcry and for children who are not motivated to participate in the interview process for a variety of reasons.  A dialogue between scientists and practitioners can inform both the research agenda and contribute to skillful and nuanced practice by child forensic interviewers.  Back by popular demand, this workshop will continue a conversation that was begun in a 3-hour session during the   33rd International Symposium on Child Abuse.  This workshop will provide an opportunity for three research scientists and three forensic interviewers to continue talking with each other and with you about the questions that need to be answered and possibilities for collaboration between researchers and practitioners.  Come prepared with your own thoughts and questions to add to this dialogue.


Linda Cordisco Steele, M.Ed, LPC, is Curriculum Chair and Senior Trainer for the National Children’s Advocacy Center (NCAC).  As a trainer for the NCAC, Linda has conducted more than 450 trainings across the U.S. and abroad.  She has presented workshops at local, regional, state, national, and international child abuse conferences.  Her areas of expertise include child forensic interviewing, child development, victim advocacy, and working within the multidisciplinary team setting.  In addition to training, Linda currently serves as a Child Forensic Interview Specialist at NCAC and provides supervision and consultation on forensic interviews locally and nationally.  Linda previously conducted forensic interviews at four other children’s advocacy centers: Prescott House Children’s Advocacy Center in Birmingham, Alabama, The Safehouse in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the CAC of the Bluegrass in Lexington, KY, and Gateway CAC in Kentucky.  In addition to providing forensic interviews, Linda served as Clinical Director for the Prescott House, NCAC, and The Safehouse of Albuquerque.   Additionally, while in New Mexico, Linda served as the Project Director of the Mobile Interviewing Project, which serves the Navajo Nation and Zuni Pueblo, as a program of All Faiths Receiving Home in Albuquerque.  She has also served as Clinical Director, Director of Victim Services, and Acting Executive Director of the Crisis Center of Jefferson County in Alabama.  Linda has 30 years of experience in therapy and advocacy work with victims and extensive training experience regionally, nationally, and internationally.  Linda received her Master’s in Education from the University of Pittsburgh and is a Licensed Professional Counselor.

Jason Dickinson, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Psychology and the Director of the Robert D. McCormick Center for Child Advocacy and Policy at Montclair State University.  His research on children’s eyewitness testimony draws on psychological theory and research to generate evidence based recommendations for questioning children in forensic contexts. Ultimately, his research program is designed to increase the accuracy of legal decisions involving children, witnesses, and investigators. His work has been supported by several grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF). He regularly consults with the legal and child protection communities to help bring research findings to the forefront of child protection efforts.

Elizabeth C. Ahern, PhD, researches children's emotional, social and cognitive development. More specifically, she has examined child interviewing techniques designed to elicit complete and reliable reports, children’s emergent lie telling abilities, and their thoughts and attitudes about secrecy. In the United Kingdom, she investigated ways to establish rapport with children within investigation and courtroom contexts. Dr. Ahern has worked first-hand with investigation teams, conducted hundreds of child investigative interviews (using empirically supported techniques), testified in criminal court and led monthly child interview peer reviews attended by practitioners throughout the United States and Canada.

Heather Stewart, MA, is the assistant program manager of the Salt Lake County Children’s Justice Center where she has provided services for more than 20 years.  She has a Master’s degree in counseling psychology.  She has partnered with the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development on child forensic interview research and developed an NCA accredited forensic interview training curriculum. She has co-authored several articles, book chapters and a report to the U.S. Department of Justice.  She provides peer review and expert courtroom testimony.  Heather collaborates with other experts in the field regarding forensic interview best practices.

Sonja Brubacher, PhD, is a researcher and lecturer in psychology at Deakin University, Australia, and an interview trainer with the Centre for Investigative Interviewing. She received her PhD in Canada (2011) and then spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Debra Poole at Central Michigan University, USA.  Her research focuses on understanding the cognitive foundations underlying children’s memory development, and the socio-motivational factors that influence whether and how memories are reported.  Her research areas include memory for repeated events, protocol development, and interview preparatory phases (ground rules and narrative practice).

Scott Snider, LCSW, is the Clinical Coordinator of the Duke Child Abuse and Neglect Medical Evaluation Clinic where he has conducted diagnostic interviews of children as part of their medical evaluation for suspected abuse for over 15 years.  He trains DSS, law enforcement, medical, and mental health professionals across North Carolina in the RADAR interview protocol, and lectures at national conferences on child interviewing.  With over twenty-five years of experience in the child maltreatment field, he has also worked as a therapist, an advocate for juveniles at the public defender’s office, and a child interviewer at the Middlesex District Attorney’s office in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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