Parental separation, particularly when coupled with high levels of conflict or violence, places children at increased risk of psychological, medical, or educational problems. The first half of this Institute addresses these issues. These children are more likely to need services, and to benefit when they receive prompt attention from competent practitioners who understand the legal context. Evidence-based care is available in a variety of settings and strong training models exist, but many practitioners are reluctant to provide care for these families. All professionals operating in the shadow of the legal system have ethics codes and professional responsibilities, which sometimes exist in tension. Poor interdisciplinary communication may lead to lead to misunderstandings, missed opportunities to resolve problems, and decisions by care providers to avoid or “fire” the families they serve. This panel will discuss these problems and possible methods of resolving them, considering both the requirements of fairness and due process and the conditions needed to promote quality care for these vulnerable children and families.

AFCC-CA has been calling for custody evaluators to help mentor mental health professionals to become custody evaluators, and the second half of this Institute addresses this important need. Finishing coursework and materially assisting as called for by Rule 5.225 are only a beginning.  A new evaluator needs to be part of an entire case, to work directly with clients while receiving careful supervision, and to take part in the analysis and report writing to learn the many practical and intellectual skills necessary to do a custody evaluation. Topics discussed in this workshop include stipulations that allow for mentoring, procedures that insure the mentor has direct responsibility for collecting information, analyzing the case and formulating the recommendations while still allowing the training evaluator to work independently and meaningfully on the case, managing practical and ethical dilemmas that arise during an evaluation where training is occurring, and co-analyzing and co-writing the report.  We give the mentor evaluator and the training evaluator’s perspectives on the motivation, the anxieties and benefits of the mentoring process.

Learning Objectives:

Participants will be able to:

  • Identify how the loss of civility interferes with children’s access to services, in both specific cases and the broader court-involved population.
  • Identify two ethical obligations in each professional discipline that may exist in tension, and two potential strategies for resolving those issues.
  • Identify three practical strategies for promoting quality treatment and other services for court-involved families.
  • Describe three ethical dilemmas that arise in having a training evaluator directly responsible for data collection and writing of a custody evaluation report and ways to address those dilemmas.
  • Describe and use a model for jointly-formulating hypotheses about issues in an evaluation to direct interview questions and other evaluation techniques.
  • Describe what it means to think like a forensic mental health professional as opposed to a psychotherapist or an attorney.