Child Protection: Creating the right environment when speaking to a child
Child protection and training in safeguarding can be a bit of a minefield. Getting training right and having the proper information and procedure is paramount. It’s not just about mandatory reporting. This series of blogs give an overview of some of the aspects of child protection and the skills and knowledge to effectively manage incidents.
When speaking to a child, creating the appropriate environment is paramount for obtaining information. Speaking to a child depends on lots of factors such as age, level of maturity. Here are some tips on setting the correct environment when interviewing children:
- Choose a quiet, private location. Children need to feel comfortable and safe in order to open up and share their thoughts and feelings. The interview setting should be free from distractions and noise, and the interviewer should be the only adult present, including a support person.
- Make sure the child is comfortable. Ask the child if they would like to sit or stand and offer them a beverage or snack if they are hungry or thirsty. The interviewer should also sit at the child’s level, either on the floor or in a chair that is lower than their own.
- Use age-appropriate language. Avoid using jargon or technical terms that the child may not understand. Speak slowly and clearly and be patient if the child needs time to process your questions.
- Be patient and non-judgmental. Children may be hesitant to talk about difficult topics, so it is important to be patient and non-judgmental. Let the child know that you are there to listen to them and that their story is important.
- Use open-ended questions. Open-ended questions allow the child to provide more detailed answers. For example, instead of asking “Did you like school today?”, you could ask “What did you do in school today?”
- Give the child breaks. If the interview is long or difficult, give the child breaks to stretch, use the restroom, or get a drink. This will help to keep the child engaged and comfortable.
End the interview on a positive note. Thank the child for their time and let them know that they were helpful. You could also offer to answer any questions they may have.
Here are some additional factors to keep in mind when interviewing children:
- The child’s age and developmental level. Younger children may have shorter attention spans and may need more breaks. They may also be more literal in their understanding of language, so it is important to be clear and concise in your questions.
- The child’s cultural background. Some cultures may have different norms around communication and privacy. It is important to be sensitive to these cultural differences and to adapt your interview style accordingly.
- The child’s emotional state. If the child is upset or anxious, it may be better to reschedule the interview. If you do proceed with the interview, be patient and understanding.
By following these tips, you can create a more comfortable and productive environment for interviewing children.
Our expert trainers at the Professional Investigators College of Australasia (PICA) are subject matter experts and create bespoke courses in the field of child protection. Contact us for a chat about how we can help you build your staff’s capability, click here to view our courses!