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3 Reasons Children Should Not Be Asked To Interpret For Parents

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

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Para español, entre aquí

In many cases, police officers ask victim’s children to interpret. While this happens often and can be a convenient way to interpret, the procedure raises some concerns. Below are three reasons that having children interpret for their parents should be avoided at all cost.

First, when minors are utilized for interpretation they are also put in a place of bias.  We have read reports in which the children may be interpreting for a situation involving both of their parents in a domestic violence case and this gives children the option of showing bias towards one party or the other.  Minors do not necessarily see the whole situation and may only be focusing on the immediate consequences of police involvement in a domestic (e.g. If I say that Dad hit Mom, Dad will go to jail and I don’t want Dad to go to jail OR I’m mad at Mom for calling the police on Dad, so I want Mom to get arrested).[i]

Second, any non-certified third party cannot be expected to offer accurate interpretations.  While many third parties (incl. minors) are more than capable of offering a true and accurate interpretation, we have no way of judging that on first meeting them.

Third, since in some cases, the minors do not directly witness the assault (by sight or sound), they can be exposed to all of the assault details through interpretation.  If the mother, instead, is presented with the option of using a language line, she may prefer that her children remain in the other room, or even reveal more details about the assault.  Having children interpret for their mothers could lead to her censoring her story because of her children’s presence.

For more information on legal responsibilities related to providing services to individuals with Limited English Proficiency, please click here.


[i] While this particular example uses Mom and Dad, Casa de Esperanza: National Latin@ Network recognizes that domestic violence takes place in all kinds of relationships.

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