Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Child Protective Services Interviewing

Much can be learned from Child Protective Services (CPS) interviewing techniques for both law enforcement, and Human Resources.

State by state, the CPS interviewing technique is independently taught, but is frequently cited for its similarities.

To much of what is done in the CPS interview, Analytical Interviewing agrees.  What is missing is the analysis that should precede these interviews, whenever possible, and then the application of principles, in the live discourse.

To combine the analysis of statements with the motifs of CPS interviewing, is to create a powerful method of information, which is what Analytical Interviewing is.

The Analytical Interview uses the model of CPS's "legally sound" interview.
The Analytical Interview uses the core of analyzing statements and its understanding of human nature, particularly the inherent need of a human to communicate, to its advantage.

The CPS interview's main goal is to be "legally sound" in every way.  Although all forms and schools of interview seek legal soundness, how far they go varies.

To be "legally sound" is to grasp the "Free Editing Process."

CPS recognizes that children are not only susceptible to suggestion, but highly so.

To this point, Analytical Interviewing recognizes the same with adults.

Both seek to bring the subject (child or adult) into the "Free Editing Process" which means:

The subject (child or adult) is as freely as possible, choosing his or her own words with minimal influence.

Minimal influence means not only withholding our words, but withholding our face expressions of approval or disapproval; something CPS trained professionals know to avoid.

I encourage law enforcement to show less shame in doing telephone interviews.  Obviously, face to face is best, but the Journal of Applied Psychology, years ago, found in a study what many of us have known for a long time:

Where there is no "FTF" (face to face) contact, people are a bit less likely to lie.  The study focused on job applicants through a computer (for Walmart entry level positions, meaning an increase in volume for the study; volume helps).  They found that people owned more of their faults, and lied less than they did in FTF interviews.

I have always used phone interviews to my advantage, especially in the following scenario:

The accused does not know an accusation has been made against him.  This is especially helpful in sexual assault cases.

These are the cases I prefer to make my own interview appointment, rather than a secretary.  Why?  If he knows not that a police or civil report has been made, he should know nothing about the charges...right?

This puts me at great advantage.

If he says, "What is this all about?" I say, "I will discuss that with you when we meet.  Now, how does 2 o'clock sound?"  I will not discuss the case lest I contaminate the language.

I listen carefully for leakage.  Will he let me know that he does, in fact know what he stands accused of, when no one has told him that a complaint has been made?

It also works when the accused knows what he was accused of, too.   This is a wonderful time saver.  Why?

Because the innocent will tell me so, and not ask me to wait to hear "my side of the story", or any other excuse.  "I didn't sexually assault her.  I didn't touch her.  I heard this from a co worker that she is accusing me..."

Freely, of his own wording, his reliable denial lets me know that this will be a short interview.

Another example of the same is when he says on the phone, "I know the accusation.  It is bull***.  I would never touch her.  Do you know she has accused a lot of people before?  She is so screwed up.  I am a happily married man and this is disgusting."

I know to set aside several hours for this interview.  He was unable to bring himself to issue the reliable denial, as he freely chose his words.  I write down everything he says and in my final report, in a case like this, I will conclude, "Over the course of this 2 hour, 50 minute interview, the subject did not deny sexually assaulting the victim."

It might surprise how just how much impact a well written, concise and 'reduced' report has upon the reader when it is void of persuasion and "just the facts."

If we want information, it is going to take time, also.  CPS interviews are often lengthy for a variety of reasons including its rule of non-interpretation.

I recently reviewed a CPS interview video taped in which the CPS interviewer would likely have been teased a great deal by interviewers who did not recognize her brilliance.  In interviewing a young teen, each and every sexual term used had to be defined by the child.

This may seem silly to many investigators, but this CPS investigator did a solid job avoiding introducing contamination into the interview.  She kept a staid, even-keeled voice inflection and though we all think we know sexual terms, experienced investigators know that we do not.

I use former President Bill Clinton's famous line, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky" as a teaching tool highlighting various principles, including how he would have passed the polygraph using this term, but it does not grow old.  It was a reliable denial, and I assert that a polygrapher trained in analysis, should have 100% accuracy in administering the polygraph, and not the volume of "inconclusive" that sometimes shows up.

Human Sexuality may be the single most "subjective" topic in the English language in its wording used at any given time.  The wording changes, not just generation by generation, but even shows several evolutions in a single generation.  A popular term used today, might mean something different in just two years, and then, two years hence, change again.

There is no other topic I know of that has more variance in language, than sex, and even now, with the intrusion of politics, simple definitions of "male" and "female" are under assault.  It remains to be seen how this will impact language.  Should, for example, the movement in New York City to declare "equality" of male and female chests, the impact upon child molestation cases would be tremendous. Scientific verification has given way to subjective human emotion, and we do not know, going forward, how this will impact language, and society in general.

In this interview, the CPS professional even had her clarify the meaning of  the word, "boobs" which, if presented before a court, will show: there was no confusion, nor mistake, nor "misunderstanding" the defense can claim. "Misunderstanding" or "being misunderstood by the alleged victim" is a common defense tactic used in court.  Therefore, by having clarity of language, the defense is going to be more likely to seek a plea than to fight.  The plea will be less than the charge, which is something not only employers need to know, but future girlfriends with children who will be told, "it was that b**** of an ex wife that..." and "It was only simple assault" or even, "I only pled to save my daughter from..."

Mothers with children often put these children at risk because it is difficult to share information with them, and universally, CPS is so restricted that the same workers who saved a child from an almost certain death, must remain silent when the abusive parent takes to the camera and boldly fabricates reality.

Child abuse advocates know that abusers often use language to their advantage and change the meanings of words to fit their abuse.  "Ice cream cone" to an abused child might be oral sex.  Without a clear definition of each and every term, pedophiles could go free.  Abusers will use various clever means of changing body terms, and the meaning of a 'reward' system within grooming.

"Ice pops are delicious!" one little girl told me.  She did not discern the alcohol that had been added to the color sugary treat.  "I get them when I am good." 

You would have cringed  or vomited had you been present when I sought the definition of "good" from this child. 

Yet, this is an example of non-interpretive interviewing.  "What does good look like?" It is these somewhat repetitious and silly sounding questions that yield not only valuable information, but are above the challenge of coercion or influence.  My voice remains steady and my face, as seen in video (or by witness in the room, out of direct eye contact with child) is neutral.  This is not always easy, but it must be done to not influence the subject (interviewee, adult or child) in any way.  When an Interviewer shows a smile at a certain answer, the defense attorney will show which answers did not provoke smiles, and then have a child psychologist testify to the impact of adult approval smiling and so on.

We need this attitude:

"I don't blame them for this.  I need to do my job, as an interviewer, properly, and holding me to a very high standard only makes me better at what I do.  I must prove, honestly, by a preponderance of evidence, that it happened."

Here is another:

"This is ridiculous, Peter.  You know me.  You know how much I love her.  I was protecting her from child molesters.  They are in my neighborhood.  Peter, you know how bad my neighborhood is."

This young father  liked to teach his daughter what child molesters could do to her by demonstrating to her the various techniques.
He was truthful in much of what he said.  He lived in an area that was known for housing many registered sex offenders.  He was also truthful in what he did to her.

He molested his own daughter and found a justification for it, in his mind.

This is a different strategy than most.  The interview was difficult and his constant use of my name was an attempt to ingratiate himself to me, as if "friends" and "fellow fathers" who "love and protect" their daughters.  The child was safely removed from his care by child protective services.  They felt that his justification was even more insidious as it added a level of denial and "moralism" to his defense.

The CPS professional must also uncover the threats the child feels; threats where she has been told that if she tells how "daddy loves me in special ways" that "they" are going to take daddy away and hurt him.

The CPS professional cannot ask, "Have you been threatened?" and introduce the topic or word involved, yet must get to the truth.

In my formal training many years ago, it was brutal in the constant calling out of each "non legally sound" question, even one that was a bit leading, and in watching the video of mistake after mistake, the trainers skillfully combined intellectual and emotional impact together, driving home the point.

When the analysis of the written statement was added to this training, I worked with a tool of immense power, that I knew to wield it gently, but recognized that it was so powerful that it actually reduced the pressure to ask leading questions, as I knew what really happened, and learned that sooner or later, if I was patient, the offending adult would first reveal it, and when confronted, would confess.

My confess rate (or "admission rate", which is a confession of sorts, only without assigning personal moral failure; the person admits doing something, but denies that it was wrong to do so) went up dramatically, as did my confidence...

in the system.

I learned that a "non" reliable denial did not end the story, but that there were some who's wording was awkward, and in time, would, in deed, issue the reliable denial and would prove out to be truth.

I learned that no subject could remain silent always.

I learned that even sociopathic types felt the internal stress of disruption of transmission when deception was employed.

I learned to go into every interview presupposing that the subject is going to tell me everything because he wants to tell me everything because he is human and this is what humans do.

I learned that there was a thrill of the six hour interview which he thought he would outlast me, but did not.

The more he thought he could out flank me (that is, by tangents), the more he revealed.  The more he revealed, the more I had.  The more I had, the more I confronted him with until we reached the point where he could not psychologically lie about his lying and would confess.

I learned that the reliable denial could be easily verified and the interview was time saving, and the polygraph would verify my findings.

I learned that the accuracy of the speed of transmission is so powerful that I could stake my employment upon it.

For many years, I ate, drank and slept analysis.  I studied everything I could get my hands on, and the overwhelming pace of the child protective world, where expectations are unsustainable, and a two year burnout rate exists, combined with analysis, to teach me the power of Analytical Interviewing.

The legally sound, non-threatening, non-intrusive, non-interpretive manner of gathering information from an interview that utilizes the written statement and the principles of analysis to let the subject guide me to the truth.

I look back, many years since, and I think of the little girl who's father preyed upon her in a downtrodden New York City neighborhood where she was, seemingly, one of thousands of little girls betrayed by those of whom she was created to trust, and how exhausted that CPS worker was, discouraged from the secondary trauma of seeing victims of abuse all day, week after week, but still finding the inner drive to locate that one loving relative who could offer the bruised and battered child, a chance for dignity and healing.

She would be about 32 years old today.

I wonder how she is doing, and if she has children, and if she became one of those "super moms" who took her own bruising in life, and flipped the odds to become a loving protective mother.

I thought of this with the case of Rainn recently in the news, as her mother gave us the linguistic signals of negligence of that poor little child.

I tip my hat to the CPS professionals and urge them to speak to their own supervisors about formal training in Analytical Interviewing.

Just the two hour lecture on "sexual abuse in language", alone, would serve them immensely.

They already have down the legally sound aspect of interviewing, and know how to avoid excessive interaction, even when masqueraded as "bond building" (which gives defense attorneys plenty to work with), and keep a child free as possible, to tell her own story, in her own words.

The training begins by using their solid foundation of legal soundness.

For social workers and child protective workers:

Our training is approved for Continuing Education Units  (CEUs) for your license, from the University of Maine, for both one and two day seminars.  Successful completion will allow you into special monthly training sessions.  Your training accompanies 12 months of ongoing support, and you join in with other professionals from law enforcement, social sciences, businesses, and other fields, to a support system where deep analysis is done, which provides traction for your career.  If your department is unable to host a training, you may take our individual course, which then allows you to take our advanced course, as well as access other training and professional opportunities.

Discounts available to hosting Child and Family Services departments nationwide.


The single greatest benefit is getting to the truth, but there are attendant benefits, not the least of is the time savings for the overworked professional.  Just as some interviews will be, by necessity of the gravity of the allegation and the resistance of the subject, lengthy, these techniques are also valuably applied to 'getting to the issue' directly, which, in the course of a month, will begin to show itself in time saved, and the subsequent lessened stress of time frames met.


Anonymous said...

Kyrian Knox - Mother's statements...


Anonymous said...

Example of how CPS dropped the ball...

Toddler kicked to death. CPS investigated reports of bruises only days earlier.

Anonymous said...

Still nothing. Hmmm....Okay, try this:

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter! Can you please please help? William Tyrrell disappeared over a year ago from his foster grandma's home. He is a foster child living with foster parents. The foster parents only in the last few weeks made appearances in the public, with their faces obscured. Even though a Court Order was made for their identities to stay private, they now say that even if not for the Court Order, they will not show their identities, because they want to protect the bio sister so she is not labeled as the "sister who's brother went missing". They are extremely well off money wise. They started renovations to their house and it cost them more than $500,000 yet, they ask for donations from the public.

This is a letter they wrote to the public.

Would you please read it and analyse?

Hope is a funny thing. What do we hope for? We’re not too sure how to answer a question about ‘how we maintain hope for William’ exactly. We hope he’s safe, we hope he’s loved, we hope he’s not afraid. We hope we get an answer soon. We hope he comes home soon. We hope that we never have to face the fact that we may never know what happened to our beautiful little boy. We hope that someone will tell someone what they know.

As a family we survive by being present minute-to-minute. The minutes roll into days, days into weeks all from the moment our boy disappeared. Hope is all we have. To imagine a life without William is absolutely horrific and it’s something we just can’t do. We believe the Police are doing everything they can possibly do to bring him home.

By trying to think positively and that by not having an outcome as yet, we believe that there is still the chance of William coming home alive. We also believe the public can help in immeasurable ways. What we’re asking of people is; if you’ve noticed that something is odd, or that something just strikes a chord with you about what you might have seen or heard then you have to contact Crime Stoppers. It might be something that until now you’ve dismissed as unimportant but by telling police, it just may be the one thing, the one missing piece of the puzzle they are looking for and you just may be the one who helps to bring William home to us. We hope that the “one thing”, the one piece of information police are looking for will come through very soon because to live a life without our little boy is indescribable.

It’s the love and support of extended family and friends that keeps us going day-after-day. For our little family, we keep each other strong and remain focussed on caring for each other and what our family means to us. Keeping our family connected and emotionally safe, our roles with each other change as does our grief and sense of loss but for us it’s about being honest and open with each other with our feelings and thoughts.

We have a very strong support system around us with friends, counselling professionals and other family members all focussed on how we can keep each other moving forward and in helping each other with coming to terms with William’s abduction.

As a family, there are times when it’s just so overwhelming… One of the most confronting feelings we have sometimes is the feeling that life goes on without William at home… Life as we knew it stopped on the morning of the 12th September 2014 but around us the world was “ticking by”, the sun still came up each morning and the stars still shone each night…

It can be so overwhelming at times and this is when we rely on each other for strength. What’s also particularly cruel and hurtful is when people who don’t know us demonstrate an enormous lack of compassion and empathy for our situation and say the most hurtful and insensitive things on social media, this is when the strength and love of friends and family helps keeps us “normal”. We both support each other by keeping busy with the Where’s William Campaign to raise awareness of our boy and donations to keep his disappearance front of mind across the community.

Anonymous said...

William is a funny little boy with an amazing sense of humour. He can laugh at himself and is most happy being the centre of attention at home. He and his sister absolutely adore each other. We have pictures of them giving each other kisses, hugs and playing. One of the things that William was beginning to explore was dress ups and creating characters for us. He and his sister would put on concerts for us, they would play their guitars and pianos, sing their favourite songs which was Frozen at the time. William and his sister are everything to us and our family.

William and his sister are the ‘bestest little buddies’ and the centre of our entire universe.

It’s incredibly hard thinking about our plans and dreams for the future now. When we think of the plans we might make, often we question ourselves because we want so much to include William. How can we plan for our family’s future without him and yet, do we try to make plans as if he’s not with us?

We have almost completed our renovations on our home for our little family. We had planned those a while ago and we planned for it to become our “forever family home”. It’s heartbreaking that William has missed out on all the fun things that he would have been so excited to be a part of – the diggers, the saws cutting timber for the roof, the trucks and all the trades working on our family home. He wold have been so, so very excited especially knowing he wold be getting his new room upstairs with lots more room for all his toys! Having missed out on the fun of building, we hope that when William comes home to us he loves how we’ve made his room his own special magic place.

To the public we want to say a special thank you from the bottom of our hearts. So many of you have offered your heartfelt words of support, love and carrying for William you’re your continued support and endorsement in helping in our Where’s William? Campaign brings us incredible comfort. We have seen your words and felt your acts of kindness.

And yet, we are troubled and disturbed by the heartbreaking position we find ourselves in and feel a deep sense of helplessness at not knowing what has happened to our boy.

To the public, our message is simple; somebody knows something, somebody saw something or somebody heard something that can help police find our boy. Somebody may have even heard someone say something about William’s disappearance. All it will take to find him is for that somebody, that one person to come forward to make all the difference and help bring William home. Maybe that somebody is you?

Please visit to learn more about William and make a donation and share William’s official Facebook page: ‘Where’s William Tyrrell? Bring Him Home – Official’ Facebook page.

If you have seen William or have information relating to his disappearance, please contact Crime Stoppers now on 1800 333 000 or at Crime Stoppers online reporting page. You can remain anonymous.

Katprint said...

When young children are being treated for an illness or injury, they may need to define their own terms as well. On one occasion, my son's "tummy-ache" turned out to be a loose eyelash floating in his eye.