Forensic Evaluations of Parents in ChildProtection Matters: The Significance of Contextual.....
Susan Cohen Esquilin and Denise M. Williams Johnson
Forensic evaluations of parents in child protection matters are typically conducted
at two points. Early in the life of the case, the focus is on risk and protective factors
to recommend services to achieve parent–child reunification. At the permanency
stage, the question is whether the parents have been sufficiently rehabilitated for
their children to be safely returned. The impact of trauma is frequently underesti-
mated at both stages. Multiple sources of trauma can be in operation, particularly
for African–American parents: interaction with the child protective service agency;
the psychological evaluation process; the parent’s personal trauma history; and the
family’s multigenerational experience of racial trauma. Unless psychologists iden-
tify and understand these contextual, personal, and racial sources of trauma, the
parent’s symptoms and self-protective behaviors may be unwittingly escalated. The
result is misdiagnosis, inadequate or inappropriate therapeutic interventions, and
the ultimate loss of children permanently.
Parental Reactions to Child Welfare System Involvement
For parents, involvement with the child welfare system is highly stressful, if not
traumatic (Dumbrill, 2006; Morrison, 1996; Tuttle, Knudson-Martin, Levin, Taylor,
& Andrews, 2007). Parents describe fear of the caseworker’s power, and feelings of
S. C. Esquilin (*)
ABPP-Clinical, Independent Practice, Verona, NJ, USA
D. M. Williams Johnson
Independent Practice, West Orange, NJ, USA
being out of control, and victimized.....