By Lois Oberlander Condie

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Additional resources for Parenting Evaluations for the Court (Perspectives in Law & Psychology, Vol. 18)

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Some states specify and exclude conditions that are deemed beyond the control of the parent because of impoverishment or lack of availability, such as inadequate housing, inadequate furnishings, low income, inadequate clothing, and inadequate medical care. For example, a parent cannot be deemed neglectful if he or she has an apartment with insufficient space, especially if that same parent was denied or placed on a waiting list for a larger apartment by the housing authority. Exclusions based on impoverishment sometimes are challenging for investigators who must determine whether a dangerous household condition or situation is a function of limited resources or a reflection of parental behavior associated with child neglect (Goldstein, 1999).

Many early statutes applied only to physicians. Legislative changes broadened the range of professionals and the types of maltreatment subsumed under mandated reporting requirements. Definitions were broadened from non-accidental physical injury to emotional abuse, nutritional problems and failure to thrive, and sexual abuse and exploitation. Most states now use a close approximation of the 1974 and 1988 definitions (Kalichman, 2000). The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act of 1974 set subsequent definitional standards for mandatory reporting statutes.

When considering an appropriate course of action, evaluators who face ethical concerns should seek appropriate consultation, considering the impact of their actions on the parties they are evaluating. Psychologists should also consider the impact on the public, the profession, and themselves (Oberlander, 1999). Care and protection matters, especially those that reach the stage of courtroom hearings, are by definition public matters. Although the public might be excluded from matters relating to children, a public record is nonetheless created.

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