Kelley Baker & Amy Eichler
Mental health evaluations have a profound effect on court decisions that may affect children and families for years to come. These assessments are relied on by child protection personnel and courts to determine a great variety of issues, including parenting capacity and custody, whether child maltreatment has occurred (and if so to what extent), whether the child and/or parents need intervention and what the intervention should consist of.
With the purpose of helping litigators and judges “assess the assessment,” as well as provide a guide to professionals in this area, this chapter provides a clinician’s perspective on the efficacy of various evaluations and assessment methods, describes proper assessor qualifications and offers illustrative cases and guidance for questioning expert witnesses and their conclusions. Particular topics include:
Minimally acceptable child protection principles
Guidelines for interviewers and investigators
Failing to acknowledge/respond to evidence of abuse
Guidelines for forensic mental health evaluations
Guidelines for expert witnesses
Eliciting a false report of abuse
The chapter concludes with case digests of cautionary tales of the challenges and controversies seen when legal experts do not understand the current scientific research in assessment methodology, and when they fail to recognize the limited credibility of the evidence.
With doctorates in their field, a combined fifty-plus years of clinical experience and having served over 600 children in a wide variety of court-appointed roles, the authors of this Child Protection Assessment chapter provide an invaluable expert witness’s guide to help litigators, judges and other expert witnesses navigate this difficult subject matter.
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