July 22, 2010 By Wallin & Klarich

Evaluations can be helpful and necessary in many types of dependency cases. In any written evaluation report, the evaluator describes the methods used and the reasoning for conclusions and recommendations. The specific purpose of the evaluation will dictate what type of assessment methods and what type of professional is necessary. A mental health, psychiatric or psychological evaluation addresses an individuals’ mental and emotional status, provides diagnostic information and makes appropriate recommendations.

A comprehensive child welfare evaluation should include more than a psychiatric or psychological evaluation of each party. In a dependency proceeding, the attorney must review the qualifications of the evaluator. The attorney should determine what type of expert conducted the evaluation and how much expertise that expert has in that specific area of child welfare. The evaluator needs to consider the emotional status of the persons being evaluated.

For mental health evaluations they can be forensic of clinic. Forensic evaluations are intended to a legal issue or question, while clinical assessments are most relevant for treatment needs and planning. To fully understand the needs of the child, the mental health evaluator should focus on things including but not limited to the need for services targeted toward a specific diagnosis of mental illness, substance abuse treatment, or the potential need for psychiatric medication.

Psychiatric and psychological evaluations frequently contain the DSM diagnosis number. The DSM number sets for fives axes on which the individual is to be evaluated. They are (1) clinical syndromes (for example depression, anxiety, psychosis and substance abuse), (2) personality disorders and specific developmental disorders (for example, borderline personality disorder), (3) physical disorders and conditions, (4) severity of psycho-social stressors, and (5) highest level of functioning past year. Those conditions on Axis 1 and 2 require treatment by mental health professionals.

Evaluations of a parent-child relationship are complex and require specialized expertise. These evaluations should include direct observation of parent and child interactions, commonly in natural surroundings, and a consideration of strengths and weaknesses. This type of evaluation should asses the relationships among the relevant adult parties and the child, the needs of the child, and the abilities of the parents or other caregivers to meet those needs. The evaluation should focus on reciprocal relationship behaviors between adult and child on many levels including parental warmth and control, the ability to read child cues appropriately, and child responsivity to the parent. The parent also has to demonstrate the ability to adequately provide for a child’s basic needs and safety.

A skilled Southern California family law attorney at Wallin & Klarich can help you through the dependency evaluation process. Contact our Southern California family law firm today by calling 888-749-7428 or visit us on our website at www.wkfamilylaw.com. We will be there when you call.

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