Questioning Unaccompanied Immigrant Children: Lessons from Developmental Science on Forensic Interviewing
SRCD Child Evidence Brief, No. 6, October 2019
Posted: 14 Nov 2019
Date Written: November 11, 2019
The challenges of dealing with the influx of immigrant children at the United States’ borders are profound. Approximately 5,000 to 10,000 unaccompanied children, including many young adolescents, arrive each month at the southwestern border. To determine whether these children will be given safe haven in the United States, authorities question them about their origins and family background, traveling companions, decision-making competency, history of abuse and violence exposure, and risk of being smuggled and trafficked. In this context, children are at significant risk of reporting their experiences incompletely or inaccurately, which can affect life-altering decisions about their immigration status. Decades of scientific research have demonstrated how to interview children to obtain accurate and complete reports of their experiences, competencies, and attitudes. This evidence highlights the critical need for clear protocols regarding when and how children should be interviewed, including how questions should be phrased. Research also points to the necessity for extensive training of professionals who conduct the interviews.
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