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2002 Jordan Institute
for Families

Vol. 8, No. 1
December 2002

Forensic Interviewing and Interagency Protocols

It is hard to discuss forensic interviewing without talking about the overlap that often occurs between child welfare services and law enforcement in some child maltreatment investigations. Indeed, North Carolina state law requires that evidence of abuse be reported to law enforcement and the district attorney. The N.C. Division of Social Services believes that this close working relationship with law enforcement is an integral component of child welfare services. It therefore encourages all counties—especially those participating in the Multiple Response System (MRS) pilot—to develop a close working relationship with law enforcement.

An important facet of building this relationship is the development of written agreements or protocols that spell out how each agency will respond to child abuse investigations. The common goals that make these protocols so helpful are the desire to keep children safe, to hold perpetrators accountable for harming children, to reduce the number of interviews for children, and to enhance the evidence-gathering process for law enforcement (NCDSS, 2002).

The level of cooperation that occurs between child welfare and law enforcement agencies in North Carolina varies. Factors that contribute to this variability include the prerogatives agency directors have in a state-supervised, county-administered system; the size and complexity of the communities being served (e.g., in some counties, child welfare agencies must develop independent relationships and agreements with multiple law enforcement agencies); historical relationships; and the personalities currently involved.

As Orange County DSS’s Denise Shaffer notes, this last factor is often the most important when it comes to collaborating on forensic interviews and other activities. Although she says her county has had an excellent written protocol with law enforcement agencies for some time, it all comes down to the people involved. “If you don’t have solid, respectful relationships with other professionals—which, thankfully, we do—the protocol is just a piece of paper.”

If you wish to see a sample child abuse investigative protocol for a county multidisciplinary team, click here.

References for this and other articles in this issue