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Child Forensic Interviewing: RADAR Developers are Making Strides Toward Meeting the Daubert Standard

In 2019, I wrote a critique of the RADAR protocol and provided reasons it fell short of meeting Daubert standards for admissibility in court. As a recap, for evidence to be admissible in a court of law in federal and many states courts, including North Carolina courts, Daubert standards should be met. The Daubert standard comes from the Supreme Court case, Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993). Under Daubert, the factors to be considered in determining whether the methodology is valid are:

(1) Whether the theory or technique in question can be and has been tested

(2) Whether it has been subjected to peer review and publication

(3) Its known or potential error rate

(4) The existence and maintenance of standards controlling its operation

(5) Whether it has attracted widespread acceptance within a relevant scientific community.

At the time of my 2019 review, I found the only protocol that came close to meeting Daubert was the NICHD protocol, an international evidence-based investigative interviewing technique for the interviewing of children. NICHD continues to be the protocol I utilize and that I recommend other forensic interviewers to recognize, as it meets the prongs of Daubert most clearly. At the time of my last review, I found the following:

1) The RADAR protocol did not have any peer reviewed publications

2) There was not a known or potential error rate

3) The protocol had not attracted widespread acceptance within a relevant scientific community

4) There were no standards controlling the operations - or if there were, they were not readily published or available for scrutiny.

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to have several conversations with Dr. Mark Everson, one of the developers of the RADAR protocol and the (recently retired) director of the Child and Family Evaluation Program (CFEP) at UNC-Chapel Hill. We have discussed whether it is fair or acceptable to compare child forensic interviewing to Daubert, and I have been quite vocal in my feedback of what RADAR needs to meet or come closer to meeting the criteria. It is my position that if we have a protocol that meets or comes very close to meeting the requirements for admissibility into evidence, we should use it. However, that certainly does not mean there is no room for additional growth, development, and research in the field. Forensic interviewing is a high-stakes practice, and anything that can be done to further the science and admissibility is a "win" toward the pursuit of justice.

Currently, RADAR meets all but one criteria within Daubert, and this is a new development. The team over at RADAR has been busy working on this, and RADAR was published in a peer-reviewed publication in 2020. I hope to see publications from individuals other than the authors soon. The protocol is gaining acceptance within the relevant scientific community, although I am uncertain how often it is utilized outside of North Carolina. Additionally, a website now provides information regarding training, operations, appropriate age utilization, and other information required to scrutinize the protocol. RADAR was developed, in part, to reduce the false negatives associated with the NICHD protocol. To date, there is no published research on cross-rater reliability, false negatives or false positives rates, or on disclosure rates between RADAR, NICHD, and other models. I do hope that research is forthcoming.


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