A guide to interviewing children

    Clare Wilson and Martine Powell.

    Routledge

    £15.99

    ISBN 415 215250 4

    Hearing the Voice of the Child: The Representation of
    Children’s Interests in Public Law Proceedings

    Maria Ruegger

    Russell House Publishing

    £16.99

    ISBN 1 89892 4 82 1

    How to interview children and how to represent them in court,
    are both crucial topics. Unfortunately, the books differ markedly
    in their quality and usefulness in dealing with these subjects.

    The focus of Clare Wilson and Martine Powell’s book is on how to
    interview a child rather than detailing the results of research.
    The authors, both clinical psychologists before becoming academics
    in Australia, have trained police officers, social workers and
    legal professionals in interviewing techniques in the UK as well as
    in Australia. They have produced a first-class practical and
    informative work which is essential reading.

    While the book concentrates on how to interview a child who may
    have been sexually abused, this is only one specific example of how
    the interviewing techniques they describe can be used. Each chapter
    represents a step in the interviewing process. The authors deal
    with understanding a child’s mind, the planning of an interview,
    essential elements, tailoring the interview to the child’s needs
    and evaluating the process and outcome.

    Interviewing children is notoriously difficult. This book,
    written in a lucid and informative style, manages in under 150
    pages to cover the subject comprehensively and knowledgeably.
    Indeed, a deep understanding of children illuminates every page.
    The text can be read from beginning to end or used as a valuable
    reference guide.

    Hearing the Voice of the Child, edited by Maria Ruegger, falls
    into a different category. The book purports to deal with the
    representation of children’s interests in public law proceedings.
    Its purpose is said to be to cover some of the issues that have
    arisen in representing children. What is provided is a ragbag of
    chapters, some of which have nothing to do with the book’s declared
    subject matter.

    Penelope Wood, for instance, devotes 20 pages to human rights
    and family law without ever focusing on children’s representation.
    She is not alone; there are discourses on experts, the needs of
    young black children in transracial foster placements, changes in
    the work of officers of the Children and Family Court Advisory and
    Support Service (Cafcass), and the child’s experience of being
    cared for by the state.

    Where relevant, there is some useful information and comment.
    However, if you have to choose, buy Wilson and Powell’s excellent
    book.

    Allan Levy is a barrister and author and editor of books
    on child law and child abuse.

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