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Using Psychological Evaluations in Delinquency Proceedings How to wade through the gobbledygook and psychobabble.

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Presentation on theme: "Using Psychological Evaluations in Delinquency Proceedings How to wade through the gobbledygook and psychobabble."— Presentation transcript:

1 Using Psychological Evaluations in Delinquency Proceedings How to wade through the gobbledygook and psychobabble

2 Disclaimer In this presentation we have attempted to provide some general information about the use of psychological evaluations in delinquency proceedings. Although we have tried to anticipate as many questions as possible we will, undoubtedly, not cover all areas of concern. With that, don’t get lockjaw during the presentation. Questions and discussions are good and there may be a prize for the person with the most original question(s). Popcorn and drinks will be available at the snack bar. Enjoy the Show!


4 Types of Evaluations Commonly Seen in Delinquency Proceedings  Psychological: Provides a general overview of intellectual, emotional, social and family functioning. Typically includes comments on amenability to treatment/intervention, protective factors, treatment needs, academic needs, etc.  Risk Assessment: Can be performed alone or in the context of a psychological evaluation. Typically utilized with adolescents being adjudicated on ‘crime against person’ charges  Psychosexual/Sexual Behavior Risk Assessment: Utilized to assess risk of re-offense and provide information for use in disposition and treatment planning  Competency: Provides information regarding the child’s competence to stand trial

5 What’s the purpose of the evaluation  Assessing disposition  Placement  Treatment  mens rea  Because each proceeding is different the evaluation needs to address the issue(s) in question, e.g., a risk assessment will provide little information on treatment needs for a child referred for shoplifting  When possible make sure the evaluation is going to provide the appropriate/needed information before it’s performed  Participate in developing and asking questions before the evaluation is conducted

6 PhD, LCSW, MD or What?  Know the evaluator’s qualifications  Although State licensing statues differ, the following generally apply;  Psychologists (PhD) administer and interpret psychological testing. They can provide diagnosis and treatment but, in most states, cannot prescribe medication  Social Workers (LCSW) typically focus on social and family issues. They do not administer and interpret psychological testing but do provide diagnosis and treatment  Psychiatrists (MD) typically provide pharmacologic intervention and management. They occasionally provide forensic assessments to the Court and provide diagnosis and treatment

7 What areas should be addressed in a ‘competent’ psychological evaluation  Intellectual Ability: Yields an ‘IQ’ score that allows for comparison of a child’s intellectual ability against children of a similar age.  Academic Ability/Achievement: Provides estimate of how a child is doing academically relative to others of the same age, i.e., is a seventh grader doing seventh grade math?  Emotional/Personality: Provides overview of specific and general personality traits & characteristics and, in some cases, indices of emotional disorders, e.g., depression, anxiety, psychosis, etc.  Family, Social, Medical History: Typically obtained from direct interview and review of collateral information.

8 Intellectual Assessment  For most instruments the ‘mean’ score is 100 and standard deviation is 10  90-109 is considered ‘average,’ 70-79 is ‘borderline,’ 80-89 is ‘low average,’ 110-119 is ‘above average,’ 120-129 is ‘high’ and 130 & above is ‘gifted.’  68% of the population falls in the average range


10 Tests Commonly Used to Assess Intellectual Ability

11 Academic/educational achievement  Most achievement tests provide age and grade equivalent scores that measure a child’s academic skills relative to peers, e.g., a grade equivalent score of 4.6 typically equates to a child who is 6 months into the 4 th grade  Achievement test scores are used in conjunction with intellectual assessment instruments to qualify children for special services, e.g., intellectually impaired, specific learning problems, etc.

12 Tests commonly used to assess academic/educational achievement

13 Emotional/Personality  Designed to provide information about personality traits and characteristics, e.g., impulsivity, aggression, anxiety, etc.  Objective vs. Subjective: Objective tests are most common, e.g., MMPI. Typically self-report and scored against normative group. Subjective are less common but used in some areas, e.g., Rorschach. They typically rely on ‘free association’ responses and are not scored against a normative group, i.e., scored by evaluator  All self report inventories require different reading skills that must be accounted for in administration  Innumerable tests are available and use varies by evaluator preference, experience and location

14 Commonly used personality tests  Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-Adolescent (MMPI-A): 12 to 18, 7 th grade reading level, 478 items  Millon Adolescent Clinical Inventory (MACI): 13-19, 6 th grade reading level, 160 items  Millon Adolescent Personality Inventory: 13-18, 6 th grade reading level, 150 items  Personality Inventory for Youth (PIY): 12-18, 3 rd grade reading level, 270 items  Personality Inventory for Children (PIC):  Beck Youth Inventories: 7-18, 4 th grade reading level, 100 items

15 Family, Social and Medical History  Family history: Helps understand the child’s context, i.e., raised by birth/step parents, immediate extended family members, siblings, abused and/or exposed to domestic violence, etc. Obtained from direct interview and collateral information  Social/Educational History: School(s) attended, peers, extracurricular activities, academic success/failure, bullied or bully, work history, behavior problems in school, placement in resource, etc. Obtained from direct interview and collateral information  Medical History: Any problems with pregnancy, developmental milestones, acute/chronic medical problems, family history of physical mental illness, etc. Obtained from direct interview and collateral information

16 Court Appointed vs. Privately Retained Evaluations  Court Appointed: In most cases, both counsel should have access to the evaluator prior to completion of the evaluation to provide input with regard to what questions should be posed for the evaluation  Privately Retained: In most cases there will be an apriori agreement that all information obtained by the evaluator will be consider attorney work product  The limits of confidentiality for the evaluation should be determined before the evaluation is conducted. If they are not, your client’s rights may not be fully protected

17 Protecting Your Client’s Rights  Pre-adjudicative vs. Post-adjudicative: Pre-A evaluations run the risk of violating a child’s rights, i.e., saying something that may incriminate them, e.g., if the evaluator asks about the referring offense(s) and the child reveals something they shouldn’t, it could be used against them, particularly in states with mandatory reporting laws. When these evaluations are requested by the Court, make sure the parameters of what can and cannot be discussed are established before the evaluation is conducted  Post-adjudicative: Less likely to have problems with self- incriminating statements but the limits of confidentiality should be established beforehand

18 Now that you’ve got it, what do you do with it?  Read it, don’t just look at the last page  Evaluate if the data and conclusions support the suggestions/recommendations, e.g., if a child has an IQ of 130 a recommendation shouldn’t be made that they receive resource services in school  Evaluate if the suggestions/recommendations answer the questions posed for the evaluation and if meet the child’s needs  Determine if the evaluation will add to or detract from the Court’s understanding of the child  If the report is competent familiarize yourself with the data and conclusions and be prepared to argue for your client’s best interest

19 What if the report is Incompetent?  If you have questions about the validity/veracity of an evaluation contact the evaluator and question anything you don’t understand or that seems vague  Challenge ‘psychobabble’ which, according to Wikipedia is defined as “... a form of speech or writing that uses psychological jargon, buzzwords, and esoteric language to create an impression of truth or plausibility. The term implies that the speaker or writer lacks the experience and understanding necessary for the proper use of psychological terms. Additionally, it may imply that the content of speech deviates markedly from common sense and good judgment.”  It’s never a bad idea to have a relationship with an evaluator you can consult with when you get a questionable evaluation


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