OVC Provider Forum Transcript

Forensic Interviewing in Tribal Communities
Roe Bubar, Leila Goldsmith  -  2014/11/19
How can I as an investigator, get involved? Thank you.
1.  Leila Goldsmith
 Most jurisdictions have training on the protocol for forensic interviewing that is being accepted and most used. It varies by state and sometimes within a state. There are several widely accepted protocols. The process involved in a forensic interviews varies significantly from investigator training for a suspect interview. I hope this is helpful. Feel free to follow up with another question, though, if this didn't answer your question.
2.  Roe Bubar
 How you can get involved as an investigator who is interested in Forensic Interviewing in child abuse cases is at a minimum complete a competency-based training that specifically covers child development and working in tribal communities. It is preferable for people hired as forensic interviews to complete a 40 hour forensic interview training curriculum that specifically includes child development and I would also add cultural competency for working in tribal communities.
Can you speak a bit about the role of multidisciplinary teams in the investigation and prosecution of child maltreatment in Native communities? Thank you!
1.  Roe Bubar
 In general I think there are power dynamics at work in many different contexts including MDT settings. From my experience I have worked with teams where there is a sense of shared power and respect even when agencies have to make decisions that other team members disagree with and I have also encountered professionals that overlook the important roles of all the MDT members. Our systems response in Indian Country revolves primarily around a criminal justice response. I hope one day there is as much funding for healing and families as we have allocated in these other systems.
2.  Leila Goldsmith
 If the MDT is prosecutor or law-enforcement led, as it true in some places, it may tend to be dominated by that discipline. An MDT ideally will be led by a skilled facilitator who is a true believer in collaboration and the importance of every discipline fully participating. Social workers and therapists will, as a rule, shrink back in a meeting full of attorneys and law enforcement. Generally, conflict styles and so forth come into play. Again, a good facilitator has to manage this and constantly work for a group that listens to each other, cross-trains each other and eventually, truly makes decisions together using the richness of each discipline for the benefit of the child.
3.  Kathryn England
 Thank you, Leila. That is encouraging. I was also curious to see if either of you feel that MDTs are occasionally dominated by a law enforcement or prosecutor approach (as opposed to a mental healthcare approach) when they are used in Indian country? I have seen this in other jurisdictions and wondered about your experiences.
4.  Leila Goldsmith
 First, I think that because native communities have strongly held beliefs about sharing decision making and responsibility for solving problems, that multi disciplinary teams are a natural fit in these communities. Our multi disciplinary teams, where they exist, are very strong because of this baseline belief in collaboration. The MDT (multi disciplinary team) is the heart of any program that serves child crime victims. We cannot meet all of the needs of a child and family without all of the different professionals working together to identify resources, strategies, and needs. Communities with a high-functioning MDT will have a team that meets regularly and makes case decisions together, as a team, so that victims are not further victimized by the systems designed to serve them.
What are some successful strategies for helping individuals who mistrust the system.
1.  Roe Bubar
 There is a long history of distrust in tribal communities of outside agencies, policies and professionals. This history is a living history not necessarily a past historic one. Insisting on professionalism and access for children and families to adequate services is vital. I also think it is really important to be up front with children and families about what happens in your community in child abuse cases. How long things take, what resources are accessible, and acknowledging the professionals that you work with that are particularly good with children and families. I also think it is important for us as professionals to address and deal directly with instances of microaggressions that children and families can encounter from others in these cases.
2.  Leila Goldsmith
 Systems have failed victims all over, and particularly in tribal communities. Holding perpetrators accountable in a community goes far in helping people trust the system. Requiring that staff in victim services are highly dedicated and well trained is required for people to start to trust systems. Victims come to programs in full-blown crisis, and need accessible advocates and helpers who genuinely and clearly care. This seems obvious, but sometimes programs are really not very user-friendly. Post disclosure, during an investigation, it is crucial to have one or two very reliable, accessible points of contact for the victim and family. People need good information about what is happening with their case, and to feel they have easy access to a person who will give it to them.
Do you know if there are funding sources that are available to provide forensic interviews and prevention program for tribal communities? If so, what are they? Thank you.
1.  Roe Bubar
 The Department of Justice puts out a report called, "Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicition- FY 14 that shows all of the funding allocated to tribes for CTAS awards this past year. In addition to the funding available from OVC, OJJDP, VOCA and NCA there are also some smaller funds available for forensic interview training. For example Cornerhouse does offer some scholarships for forensic interview training and APSAC has a scholarship for law enforcement from smaller communities. The FBI Forensic Interview training for investigators is an application process to gain admission into the training. However once accepted I don't think there is a cost for the training for participants.
2.  Leila Goldsmith
 The Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) has federal grant funding specifically for building programs to serve children who are crime victims, and all crime victims. Grant funding under the Tribal Victim Assistance program, the Children's Justice Act funds, and other programs all will fund forensic interviewer training, wages, equipment, and more. Prevention funding has historically been disallowed under that particular funding source. A lot of prevention funding flows through OJJDP. Also, there may be local state grant funding opportunities just for tribal or marginalized communities through your state Victims of Crime (VOCA) office, usually located in your state capital. These funds are for all children and there should be funds for high risk or marginalized populations.
I used to work primarily with one tribal group but now as part of my new role travel nationally and sometimes internationally to provide forensic interviewing. Is there a good resource or several resources to help address the differences in cultural approaches for the wide variety of tribal and first nations groups that a multi-jurisdictional practitioner may encounter?
1.  Leila Goldsmith
 I would only add that there are some valuable resources available through the International Society for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (ISPCAN) and that the annual San Diego International Conference on Child & Family Maltreatment always offers workshops by professionals working overseas, some from indigenous cultures. I believe that there is much to be gained from looking at good work being done in any indigenous culture that can be applied to working in another indigenous culture as an outsider.
2.  Roe Bubar
 Part II: Lisa Fontes also has a few texts on working with diverse cultures in the area of child maltreatment but there is little specific to Indigenous peoples.
3.  Roe Bubar
 Part 1: NCAC is doing a lot of international training in this area but not Indigenous specific.I am not aware of materials that are general in the sense you are requesting. Understanding history and the experiences of Indigenous communities within the context of colonization and global as well as western impacts would be important. Local Indigenous communities and organizations are positioned to educate others on local tribal ways of living and culture. First nations in Canada refers to "status Indians" and doesn't include the Inuit or Metis peoples. There are lots of materials on First Nations people out of Canada. There are more general cultural competency chapters written by different folks I think Hilary Weaver has two books like this.
There are several different forensic interviewing protocols. Is one better than the others for use in tribal communities?
1.  Roe Bubar
 Part 2: I am not sure it is the protocol that always makes the difference for tribal communities versus the interviewer. When tribal communities are starting up a Children's Advocacy Center or an MDT approach I do think the NICHD protocol can be valuable since it is a structured protocol where the narrative can be somewhat adjusted for a more specific tribal setting. It's important to acknowledge there is a lot of overlap with protocols. The NCAC protocol is a protocol many communities I have worked with use as it focuses on a narrative approach that isn't overly structured and may work well for Native children. However there are number of different protocols used across the country and states that use a statewide protocol approach.
2.  Roe Bubar
 Part 3: Protocols, Peer Review, Forensic Supervision that truly attend to the child's pace, language cadence, appropriate questioning rhythm, use of language/silence and use of narratives may provide a better situation for Native children. I find in supervision that interviewers often overlook the ways in which their own ethnocentricity impacts their approach with children from a different community or worldview.
3.  Jessica H.
 Thanks! Is one protocol better for use in tribal communities or are they equal in that aspect?
4.  Roe Bubar
 There are a number of formal forensic interview training programs that provide regular training sessions throughout the year and those programs could include for example: NCAC, APSAC, NICHD, Cornerhouse and Child First (formerly Finding Words). A number of states have created their own forensic interview training centers. The Forensic Interview program for the FBI is part of the Office for Victim Assistance and they also conduct Forensic Interview training for tribal communities.
For those outside of the tribal community, what are the primary cultural consideration to be aware of?
1.  Roe Bubar
 Cultural competency in working with Natives has to begin with acknowledging the diversity that exists within and across tribal communities. Understanding history, policy and the impact of colonization are part of a basic framework folks need to be knowledgeable about. Competency working within specific communities means real engagement with tribal people, local culture, language, and what are common understandings, expressions, activities and ways of being in that community.
2.  Leila Goldsmith
 Tribal members are the experts in their own community! Any outsider needs to understand this, and the harm they can do by ignoring that they have much to learn before they can earn the trust of a child in that interview room. It is not complicated, but very important. A good interviewer will want to learn about the community, and will take advantage of opportunities for consultation.
3.  Charlene Abraha
 Although not the original poster; I want to thank you for that wonderful reply. Cultural competency is such a battle and I often face non-Tribal, non-community member helpers who are terribly offended that their expertise is often offensive and harmful. This approach is very doable and helpful.
4.  Leila Goldsmith
 It is so important that a non-community member who is an interviewer understand cultural practices, traditions, and even words that children use that may be unique to that community. Children need to have the confidence that the interviewer will understand the traditions they describe, which gives them confidence to then talk about the traumatic event they are there to talk about. If it is possible, learn as much as possible about the local culture and observe a culturally competent interviewer multiple times to make yourself competent before conducting interviews in that community. As well, have someone observing who can consult with the interviewer when s/he takes a break.
Please name the 3 sources of help you recommend providing after a forensic interview in a tribal community?
1.  Charlene Abraha
 Another insightful reply. I do question the usefulness of some evidence-based practices, as the evidence is often derived from studies that do not include many, or no, Native subjects. Fortunately, funding sources within the state and some Federal sources have been open to the discussion and allowed for alternative or funding other evidence-based therapy, not perhaps included on their list, for our use. I would encourage all funding sources and agencies to keep this in mind.
2.  Leila Goldsmith
 First, a child who has made a disclosure of abuse in a forensic interview should have a medical forensic examination. This is done by a local hospital/clinic with a SANE team (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner). This is for reassurance to the child, for baseline data about health needs and status, and for possible forensic evidence. Second, evidence based therapy for the child and family is crucial, to assist with addressing the trauma. Third, connecting the child and family with an advocate immediately, who can link them to therapy, transportation, medical appointments, is all important right away. Equally important is honoring the cultural ways that trauma is healed in that community, and helping the family to reach out for spiritual help.
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