Case Study Example: Forensic Interview of a Child

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Carnegie Mellon University
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Case study
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Child demographic data

The child is called Kelasia Silook. She is three years old. She lives with her mother and brother. But at times, her mothers boyfriend, Michael Ponte visits and stays with them. Michael has his own place. Kelasia Silook comes from a Native Alaskan family. Michael Ponte is the perpetrator of the crime. Michael is Kelasias mothers boyfriend.. The interview was conducted on August 13, 2010 (Griange, 2011).

Narrative of the abuse situation reported by the child

The child started by being abused by Michael Ponte any time she did something that Michael did not approve. The abuse has been going on for some time. Based on the fact that the child states that Michael has abused her family home as well as at his place, it can be confidently be said that the child has been abused on many occasions (Griange, 2011).

The alleged abuse in this case is that Michael has been beating up Kelasia, choking her and putting her head under water in a bathtub. Apparently, the childs mother has not been firm on asking Michael to stop abusing her daughter given that the abuse has been going on for quite some time. The child reveals that she has on many occasions told her mother about being abused by Michael. The child reveals that Michael Ponte, who she refers to as Mike, took her head and dipped it under water. Michael held Kelasia captive at his house and choked her in the bathtub. Michael had been angered by Kelasia when she put her under water. The child reveals that anytime she did something that Michael does not like, Michael would beat her. The child would respond to abuse from Michael by reporting her experience of being abused to her mother. Kelasia Silook had not been seen by anyone of her nurturers, family and anyone who loves her several months. There is evidence that suggests that Kelasia was physically assaulted and at the same time drugged with chemicals (Griange, 2011).

The interviewers performance

The interviewer performs averagely when conducting the interview. There are several areas that the interviewer needs to improve on so that interviews she conducts in future can be more successful. The interviewer does not do a good job in controlling the childs attention. The child appears very distracted at the beginning of the interview. The child is also restless at the beginning of the interview. The interviewer should have exercised more control over the child to ensure that the interview became highly successful.

However, I must commend the interviewer for being friendly to the subject. The interviewer first asks the general subject questions about her age and dressing. The interviewer is nice to the child who is being interviewed. The interviewer asks the subject about the person who fixed her hair as well as her favorite colors. The subject is introduced to the interview by being asked to draw on a piece of paper. Asking the subject to write on a piece of a paper plays a role in initiating the child to start looking at issues from a serious perspective so that the interview may kick-off.

It is important for an interviewer to be affable to his or her subject. Studies have revealed that being friendly to a person who is being interviewed is important in creating a conducive environment that would ensure that the subject provides appropriate responses to the questions being answered. During investigative interviewing, it is important for an interviewer to create a rapport with his or her subject. A rapport plays a major role in ensuring that the subject becomes cooperative with the interviewer. It is also pleasant for an interviewer and a subject if the atmosphere is not full of intimidation or aggression. The place of an interview should be a neutral, quiet and secure place so that a child does not get distracted in the course of the interview.

Previous studies have revealed that a peaceful interview environment goes a long way in deterring incidents of false confessions that mostly arise when an accusatory style of interviewing is used to conduct interviews.

The interviewer assesses the childs cognitive abilities by asking her to draw a circle on paper. After drawing a circle on paper, the interviewer asks the subject where the inside of the circle is. The subject is also asked where outside of the circle is. The interviewer goes ahead to ask the subject about the color of the mark pens both the subject and the interviewer are using. The question about the inside of the circle is meant to assess if the client can carry out simple tasks. It is important for a subjects cognitive skills to be assessed so that it can be ascertained whether she can remember past events. In our context, the memory of past events is important for the success of the interview. The interview could only be successful if it were first ascertained that the subject can remember past events. Results of a given interview can only be said to be credible after it has first been ascertained that a subject can successfully remember past events.

The interviewer was well prepared for the interview. Based on the questions that the interviewer asks the subject, she had planned enough for the interview. The interviewer acts professionally throughout the interview despite the fact that the child is restless. The child fails to sit put on her chair, throughout the interview.

The interviewer is sensitive to the childs needs. When the child asks for a new drawing paper, the interviewer enthusiastically gives the child new drawing paper. The interviewer goes to the extent of giving the child, a new marker pen, even without being asked.

After being friendly to the subject, the interviewer decides to take a serious approach and starts to ask the child serious questions. The interviewer first asks the subject about who lives in their family. Surprisingly, the child responds that their family lives at their house. When asked who her family is, the subject says that she does not know. However, the child reveals the name of her mother. When asked who else is in their family, the child repeats her mothers name and also mentions the name of her sibling. Someone who is not a professional could find it irritating for the child to mention the name of her mother twice when asked about whom else is in their family. The interviewer remains composed and does not appear to be irritated by what other people would regard as irritable behavior.

The child does not mention the name of Michael Ponte (Mike) when asked about her family. Failure of the child to mention the name of Mike could stem from the fact that the child has developed a negative attitude about him after her abusive experience. However, the interviewer uses professional skills to elicit more information from the subject, ensuring that the subject mentions about Mike. It is revealed that Mike is the boyfriend of the subjects mother.

The interviewer does not push the child to talk about her abusive experience. The interviewer uses language that is understandable to the child. During the interview, when it reaches a point where the child seems not to want to talk about her abusive experience and starts to talk about other things, the interviewer does not pressurize the subject to remain on course. The interviewer does so because she probably understands that the subject is uncomfortable about talking about her abusive experience. Probably, the subject also does not want to talk about her abusive experience because it makes her feel sad.

The interviewer does not lecture the child during the interview. The interviewer does not coerce an answer from the child. The interviewer does not judge answers provided by the child. The interviewer does not show annoyance when the child appears to be distracted at the beginning of the interview.

Developmental considerations

It is important to take note of the age of a subject so as to know how best to approach the interviewing exercise. Interviewers should always take into consideration, the developmental stage of a subject when conducting an interview. People of different ages always go through different developmental stages. Therefore, it is wrong to treat all subjects in the same way. When interviewing a child, it is important to know developmental issues associated with the child. The child in our case is three years old; this means that she is at a pre-schooling age.

Developmental issues in interviewing pre-school children include spatiality, temporality, receptive vs. expressive language and sequencing and logical progression. Pre-school children in this context refer to children aged between 2 years and six years of age. Spatiality in a child can be assessed by an interviewer putting the child through difficult assessments. Difficult assessments often play a major role in ensuring that the threshold of a child who is being interviewed is reached. Temporality which refers to time can be assessed in a child by asking the child questions related to time and timing. Interviewers should know that pre-school children have greater receptive skills than language skills. Therefore, an interviewer should be patient with children and know that children tend to understand more than they can say. Pre-school children are more likely to appear to understand a question seem to be experiencing difficulties in understanding the question. Sequencing and logical progression are a skill that is most often marginally, except for cases of older preschoolers.

It is important for an interviewer to know that a three-year-old idea of abuse is different from an adults idea of abuse. An interviewer should be soft and polite to the child and not try to push her in eliciting information from her. Being hard on a three-year-old when trying to obtain information from her may make her become uncooperative and not provide the required information.


In my judgment, the abuse occurred. The child repeatedly says that Michael had been abusing her anytime she did something that angered him. Michael has not only abused the child once; he has abused her several times. The child further reveals that any time she got abused by Michael, she would make a report to her mother. It, therefore, means that the mother has been in the know of the abuse being perpetrated on her child (Merrell, 1999).

Judge Gregory P. Heath makes a ruling with an intention to cover up and deny that domestic violence in our case happened. The ruling also insinuates that the judge had an intention of protecting a domestic violence abuser. The judge makes a ruling that criminalizes the mother of the child who stood up against her husband for perpetrating abuse on their child (Griange, 2011).



Griange, R. (2011). This is what a Competent Police Forensic Interview of a Child Looks Like. Retrieved on July 11, 2017, from

Merrell, K. W. (1999). Behavioral, social, and emotional assessment of children and adolescents. Mahwah, N.J: L. Erlbaum Associates.


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