We offer the following evaluations:
- Limited Focused Assessment (LFA)
- Comprehensive Family Evaluation (CFE)
- Child Forensic Interviews (Court ordered or Private)
- Extended Forensic Evaluation for Child Maltreatment
Limited Focused Assessment (LFA)
Is a Court appointed evaluation to address limited and specific questions by the Court. Fewer and more narrowly defined issues are assessed in LFAs than in comprehensive child custody evaluations. The LFA report is intended to focus on a limited number of issues. While the Court and attorneys may determine the scope of the questions asked, the appointee/Evaluator determines the scope of the process.
The initial conference with the Evaluator is to summarize the issues in the case and to allow the Evaluator to request information he or she believes would be pertinent. The acceptance of this appointment by the Evaluator indicates the ability to complete a written report by and, if subpoenaed, the availability to testify in Court. If the Evaluator cannot comply with the time parameters stated, he or she shall notify Court upon receipt of this minute entry.
If appointed to conduct an LFA and the Evaluator concludes the issues are beyond the scope of an LFA, the Evaluator advises the Court and seeks clarification of the appointment. If after the initial conference, the Evaluator believes that the scope of the assessment should be modified from the identified scope, the Evaluator shall submit written correspondence to the Court about the intended scope of the assessment based on the initial contact. In addition, if after the initial conference, the Evaluator believes that a comprehensive custody evaluation is necessary rather than a limited assessment, the Evaluator shall submit written correspondence to the Court identifying concerns about the scope of the assessment.
Comprehensive Family Evaluation (CFE)
A Comprehensive Child Custody Evaluation is a Court ordered evaluation that addresses the best interests of the child and the statutory factors in ARS §25-403. The Comprehensive Child Custody Evaluation assesses a parent’s capacity and ability to make legal decisions for the child (health, religious and school decision making), parenting time plans (which parent if any should have more parenting time with the child and why), parental fitness, past, present and potential future relationship between the parent and the child. Additionally, the Evaluation assesses the interaction and inter-relationship between the child, their parent, siblings and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests; the child’s adjustment to home, school and community, the mental and physical health of all involved, the wishes of the child with regard to legal decision making and parenting time, which parent is more likely to allow the other parent frequent and meaningful contact with the child and whether there has been domestic violence and/or child maltreatment.
Child Forensic Interview
The child forensic interview may be Court ordered or stipulated to by the parties. The child forensic interview investigates allegations of child abuse or neglect. The appointee shall either: (1) Obtain any and all documents and information from personal/professional collaterals (2) Obtain any and all prior investigations conducted by CPS/law enforcement/Childhelp; (2) If not already reported to CPS/law enforcement, prior to interviewing the child, the appointee shall immediately report to CPS/law enforcement per A.R.S. §13-3620; (3) Interview the parents (separately) and the child (typically one to two interviews). The interview may be conducted at any stage of the legal proceeding and will be recorded by an electronic medium, typically audiotape. A report summarizing findings is issued to the Court/counsel.
Extended Forensic Evaluation for Child Maltreatment
The Extended Forensic Evaluation for Child Maltreatment is a Court ordered evaluation to assess allegations of child maltreatment (physical, verbal and/or sexual). The parents/caretakers are interviewed separately (60 to 90 minutes) and the child (ren) are interviewed separately five to eight times (45 minutes). The interviews are audiotaped and transcribed. The extended evaluation focuses on the examination of the child’s statements and the identification of the variables that differentiate sexually abused children from nonsexually abused children. Discriminating variables include family risk factors, parental/extended family influences on the child’s statements/behaviors, parental/family dysfunction/domestic violence/mental illness and/or chemical dependency, the child’s concerning behaviors, and the child’s adaptive functioning. Protective variables (factors that decrease the risk of child maltreatment or its transmission across generations) include a parent’s history of good parenting, marital satisfaction, adequate support network, adequate income, and appropriate problem-solving skills. Potentiating factors (factors that increase the risk of child maltreatment or its transmission across generations) include child medical problems that make parenting unrewarding, parental history of child maltreatment, poor frustration tolerance in the child or parent, chaotic/violent neighborhood, and high stress levels in the parents.
The second focus of the evaluation is on the child’s statements, which often weaken the veracity of the child’s allegation. The extended interview explores the child’s capacity to recollect and describe an experience of child sexual abuse, the child’s story in its interpersonal and social context, and the quality of the story as narrated by the child. The child’s statements to their caretakers and to forensic evaluators/interviews/mental health professionals are analyzed by examining disclosure factors (whether the disclosure is consistent with the child’s developmental level and whether the language is congruent with the child’s developmental level, emotional content, disclosure factors (timing of the allegation, to whom the allegation was made, and it’s spontaneity); the quality of previous forensic interviews (methodology, interviewer expertise, and interviewer dynamics); the quality, quantity, and specificity of details the child provided, corroborative information, confirmatory (demand characteristics/contextual reinstatement) factors, motivational factors (secondary gains for child/caretaker), and alternative explanations. Alternative explanations include whether the child or caretakers have a psychiatric disorder that impairs perception of the alleged abuse, whether the caretaker has a family history of abuse (physical, sexual, neglect), whether benign activities could have been misinterpreted by the child/caretaker, whether there is an influence by a third party, whether there is the existence of dysfunction in the child’s life, and if there are alternative plausible explanations for the child’s presentation and statements. A written report summarizing findings will be issued to Court/counsel.