Do’s and Don’ts of Child-friendly Interviewing

Do’s and Don’ts of Child-friendly Interviewing

Recognizing the need to help children feel at ease during intake and assessment interviews, USCCB/MRS (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops/Migration and Refugee Services) developed a short guide for individuals working with children, as a reminder of some of the key considerations of child-friendly interviewing. While not an exhaustive list, this guide shares some of the most salient Do’s and Don’ts of creating a child-friendly environment for interviews with young people.

Refugee and asylee children, and other young people on the run, have often endured harrowing experiences before, during, and after fleeing from home. As a result, they may have difficulty trusting others, especially adults or others in positions of authority, and they may not understand the purpose behind questions posed by service providers. As service providers, it is important that we keep this important truth in mind as we interact with youth. Using simple age-appropriate language that children will understand and creating an environment where youth feel free and safe to express themselves are just some of the ways that service providing staff can help children feel comfortable answering questions.


This month’s guest blogger: Lindsay Stepp, Refugee Child Protection Coordinator, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops/Migration and Refugee Services (USCCB/MRS)


  1. Anonymous March 14, 2016 at 3:23 pm - Reply

    Has anyone found any child friendly assessment tools for refugees that assess for PTSD, Anxiety and Depression?

  2. Anonymous March 14, 2016 at 3:24 pm - Reply

    How do you inform kids about privacy and mandated reporting? Do you include this in your interviews?

  3. Anonymous March 14, 2016 at 3:26 pm - Reply

    Regarding the trauma mapping, do you think that would be a useful way to learn information about what happened to a child before he / she came to the USA? What is the best age range for this technique?

  4. Anonymous March 14, 2016 at 3:27 pm - Reply

    How can we seem more approachable via phone interview/contact (which doesn't allow for props, body language, etc.)?

  5. Anonymous March 14, 2016 at 3:28 pm - Reply

    How to do ask a child to pause while you take notes without having them lose their train of thought or flow of conversation?

  6. Anonymous March 14, 2016 at 3:33 pm - Reply

    What about ideas for teens and older children who have trouble talking about emotions?

  7. Anonymous March 14, 2016 at 3:35 pm - Reply

    Any advice for conducting an interview with children and teens when also using an interpreter? Can you still use mapping and/or emotion cards?

  8. Anonymous March 14, 2016 at 3:36 pm - Reply

    Any information on how to approach those engaging in self-harm and/or suicidal ideation? Or for teens engaging in risky behaviors?

  9. Jacquelin Zubko-Cunha March 14, 2016 at 3:37 pm - Reply

    Please share any additional tips/advice here! Thank you!

  10. Anonymous March 14, 2016 at 3:39 pm - Reply

    Start the interview off asking non-threatening Qs to help build rapport w/ the child before jumping into more difficult Qs. Innocent Qs such as "what is your favorite thing to do, eat, etc." -Elizabeth Trevino

  11. Anonymous March 14, 2016 at 3:40 pm - Reply

    One question I usually end with is, "Is there a question that I did not ask that I should have?" OR "Is there anything that you would want me to know?" -Rachel, GDIT

  12. enm March 18, 2016 at 10:33 am - Reply

    If a child is speaking too quickly for you to be able to record all of the relevant information, try the technique of reflecting back by paraphrasing or restating what the child has said. This allows you to clarify what the child has said (which prevents any errors in your recording) and it shows the child that you are actively listening and understanding the story being told. It also provides you with a few extra moments to jot down the notes without changing the subject or stopping the flow of conversation.

  13. enm March 18, 2016 at 10:33 am - Reply

    Phone interviews can certainly be a challenge! It may be more difficult to form rapport over the phone and harder to gain a child's trust. As in face-to-face interviews, introduce yourself and the purpose of the interview, be sure to get the child's consent and address any questions or concerns they might have and always use appropriate language and tone. It's also worth considering the tremendous impact that speaking slowly and clearly on the phone can have! If possible, utilize a video conference function (such as Skype) so that the child can have a better sense of who you are. If you are able to employ a video chat, you can do some drawing exercises or games remotely with the child to strengthen your rapport.

  14. enm March 18, 2016 at 10:33 am - Reply

    Formally assessing refugee and immigrant youth for PTSD, Anxiety and Depression should always be done by a qualified professional. Make sure that you know who in your city you can refer children to when you suspect they may be experiencing symptoms of PTSD, Anxiety or Depression. For more information on assessment and symptoms in children of all ages, check out this comprehensive website from "Caring for Kids New to Canada":

  15. enm March 18, 2016 at 10:33 am - Reply

    Ideally, all of our interpreters should be trained in child-friendly interviewing techniques. However, if your interpreter has not attended a training on communicating with children, you can take a few moments before the interview to explain to the interpreter that you will be using emotion cards or mobility mapping. If the interpreter is aware in advance of the kind of activities you will be doing, he/she will be better prepared to accurately translate instructions to the child. Always inform interpreters in advance when you will be interviewing a child so that they can be prepared to adjust their interpretation style accordingly.

  16. enm March 18, 2016 at 10:33 am - Reply

    Absolutely. Risk and Mobility Mapping can be used to learn more about a child's experience in the country of origin, country of asylum or in the resettlement country. For more information on Mobility Mapping and the way it's been used with refugee children (particularly in a family tracing context), you can check out this report: Pages 7 and 8 contain a step-by-step guide to implementing the Mobility Map exercise with a child.

  17. enm March 18, 2016 at 10:33 am - Reply

    Great question! It is definitely necessary to explain principles of confidentiality and mandated reporting to the children you interview. This should be done at the start of the interview, after you have introduced yourself, your organization and the purpose of your interview. Confidentiality and mandated reporting are concepts that may be completely unfamiliar to children and therefore need to be explained to children in child-friendly language based on their development stages and ages. Creating a short "Starting the Interview" guide for yourself can be a great way to ensure that you address all the necessary introductory topics before delving into the deeper issues.

  18. LKS March 18, 2016 at 3:59 pm - Reply

    Great question. It's often a challenge to get teenagers to open up, particularly when it comes to sharing emotions. It's important not to talk down to youth of this age or to treat them as young children; young adults are likely to be more receptive if you treat them as adults and recognize and encourage their strengths. Activities which acknowledge strengths and encourage teens' competitive sides are often effective at breaking the ice, developing a rapport, and creating a safe environment for the young person to open up. Check out (and) for more ideas and activities!

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