Critiquing a Care of Coconuts Act s133 Psychologist Report
I am not a professional psychologist. This is offered to help people to react sensibly and constructively to such a report and to not over-react.
Any suggestions you may make, will be received with gratitude.
Remember – if you’re not enjoying dealing with the familycaught, then your not dealing with them properly.
The familycaught only damages people who take them seriously.
Critiquing a Care of Coconuts Act s133 Psychologist Report
Reasons for getting a critique prepared
People who are about to have a familycaught hearing need to focus on legal strategy and factual evidence. A critique should help them to strengthen their strategy, showing how to improve the sympathy from the “judge” and as a last desperate attempt, to identify evidence that might be used as a poor man’s substitute for sympathy.
As a first cut, anybody with a little experience may write a critique. This should assist in the decision about whether to employ a professional psychologist to prepare a critique. Generally this is only worth doing if you are sure that it is worth producing the psychologist or psychiatrist in caught as an expert witness.
After a hearing, people who wish to make complaint against a psychologist need to consider the strategy of their complaint and again may need a professional psychological critique.
This note is written to assist parents to make constructive challenge to psychological reports prepared for familycaught, without driving themselves crazy in the process.
This note assumes that both parents are capable, well resourced and skilled, unless otherwise proven. If this is so, then by proportionality the custody should be shared!!! – in accordance with NZ legislation.
In writing a critique, it is desirable to reassure the parents that any custody decision made now, should not be determinative forever and the situation should be regularly reviewed. This approach would reduce the stress and pressure felt by parents to approach these hearings in a winner-takes-all manner.
The pernitious effects of previous hearings does often lead to a black and white winner-takes-all approach by familycaught “judges”. Once custody is decided, it is difficult to near impossible for it to change, unless the custodial parent ever decides to relinquish their ownership. [See comment #4 Pernitious Effects.. below] This effect is driven by the lack of evidence weighing skills in familycaught “judges” and legal workers, who can make more money through extortion, than through conciliation.
If one parent is alleging the other is seriously lacking in skills or is dangerous to the children, then the psychologist should investigate these issues in parallel with normal parenting issues. If this is not done, then the allegations of danger are likely to turn out unfounded, but the issues of parental resources and skills are likely to have been not been investigated thoroughly enough. This is likely to result in a poor quality day to day care conclusions. In the event of allegations, it is necessary to investigate both parents, for psychiatric health, parenting resources, skills and for hazard.
Typically, the problems in psychologist reports are:
Relevant important information left out
Information presented in misleading, incorrect or biased manner (These issues usually result from breaches of natural justice in psychologist’s method.)
Following past familycaught decisions and failing to make a fresh analysis, based on the current facts.
Placing value on one parent, rather than the degree of protection given to a child by having two working parenting relationships.
Conclusions which are not supported by the input information and accepted procedures for drawing conclusions.
Real World Situation
Are both parents skilled, competent and capable caregivers, or are there reasonable concerns over one or both parents?
The safest approach to writing a critique, is to put aside the psych report and to think through producing such a report yourself. What input data would you gather? What appear to be reasonable conclusions to make? Preferably do this with a bias toward one parent and then repeat with a deliberate bias toward the other parent and also with a view to protect the child(ren). Through doing all of these, you should identify the full set of information that both parties would want to be addressed.
If one parent is shown to have inadequate skills, then this is really only a serious problem for the child, if the child will be denied significant contact with the other parent. This consideration leads naturally toward some form of shared parenting, unless one parent shows that they want to sabotage shared care.
In this situation, it is appropriate for the parent willing to share care to be defined as the custodial parent and to have more control over the daily life of the children, until the sabotage problem has abated. [see comment #1 below]
Generally, parenting skills are stable. Once demonstrated, they are very unlikely to be lost, except if they are subverted by some degree of psychiatric breakdown. In this case, a good showing on one occasion is not sufficient to show that the child will have access to these skills at all times. In this situation, a proper psychiatric history evaluation, which will require access to all relevant medical records to date, GP, hospitals and perhaps previous overseas records is required. This type of investigation is outside the scope of section29 report and the writer should note these issues appear to be present and recommend a section 178 report be commissioned. [see comment #2 PAS below]
If parents are feeling defensive or threatened, they may overreact and actively defend every single point that they disagree with in the psychologist’s report. Acting defensively is often not the best strategy, as it may give the “judge” the feeling that you have something to hide.
It is usually better to identify a small number of the most critical issues, which need to be defended. Then deny the rest, as one or two groups. They may be denied point blank, or dismissed as being unimportant.
The brief denial is usually accompanied by a statement of willingness to answer any questions (if any other party wishes to press the point).
Producing a Critique:
Identify Available Sources of Input Data
Discussion with school teachers and headmaster, for discussion about parental contacts.
Discussion with doctor/receptionist about parental contacts, as these are usually not fully documented in medical reports.
Possibly discussion with leaders of social or church groups.
Identify Available Information Sources Not Used by Psychologist
Compare the input information used in the report, to that which reasonably should have been used, as identified above.
If any form of risk analysis is to be performed, took very carefully for the absence of input information, which would be necessary to make up a complete risk analysis. It is dangerous to turn a blind eye to gaps in file data.
What impact could the absence of available information have on the reasonable conclusions?
It is important that you have identified available input information, before evaluating the brief.
Is the brief giving the report writer sufficient scope to address all significant issues, in the decision to be made?
Compare the brief to the real world situation around the child(ren)?
Does the brief focus too much on one parent?
Does the brief appear to be biased between parents?
Deriving Input Data from the Sources of Information
The body of the report should be clear on the sources of information used and whether they are hearsay, facts observed by and verified personally by the psychologist, or facts indicated from files (though which might not be correct).
The method of measurement should be clearly shown and the input data should be visible in the paper record of the interview.
The method of measurement should be clearly shown and the input data should be visible in the paper record of the interview.
What local backup the parent has, friends, family, commercial daycare?
Family and local social structure in each household and the likely value to the child(ren)?
Time available for childcare
Whether work requirements will sometimes impinge on time available for childcare?
Can the parents work together, to handle variances, for examples requirements to work overtime, care of sick children, parental sickness etc?
Look carefully through the report, for input information which appears to have come from sources outside those listed by the report writer. Consider whether this has any impact on the reliability or quality of conclusions in the report?
If the psychologist has used hearsay information, then natural justice requires that this information must have been put to the affected party(s) and the information only used if they agree to it’s correctness or the psychologist has independantly verified this information. It must be clear in the report about the source of the verification and the fact that it is disputed by one or more parties.
The opposite of this, would be to accept information from one party without allowing the other party to challenge it at all. Such a breach of the principles of natural justice would allow the psychologist’s report to be rejected as partisan or biased and not of professional quality.
If the psychologist has accepted hearsay as evidence, have they commented on the quality of the language? For example, a complaint made, may be in language or ideas inappropriate for a person of that experience, knowledge or culture. If so, then it would appear likely that the person has been trained, rather than speaking in their own natural language and level of ideas. Alternatively, the psychologist may be attributing the words to a party, when they were actually spoken by their legal worker? If this is the case, then surely careful clarification, checking and testing would be expected from a professionally skilled psychologist. The record of the interview should support that these issues have been handled properly.
Method of drawing conclusions
The method by which the conclusions have been derived from the facts should be clearly stated.
The method of drawing conclusions must be given or by reference and be based on published and accepted principles and within the restrictions of scope that are appropriate to the use of these principles. Emotional liking or opinions are not a professional method, whereas lack or possession of identified skills is relevant, as long as the conclusions go no further than the importance of the issues measured.
The method should be proportional, so that a slight or trivial difference of observed facts does not lead to a black and white difference in the conclusion. To derive conclusions in this manner would be to allow a tiny difference in input data, to lead to a large difference in conclusion, which would not be robust. A small error in measuring could then lead to a totally wrong conclusion. (This proportionality concept is applied in the same way, as in sentencing decisions.)
Following this logic, small differences in parental skills should result in a conclusion that any form of parenting from 10% to 90% would actually be quite adequate, from the child’s perspective and the decision could be readily made by sharing between the parents. This approach avoids escalating adversarial pressures between the parents (which could easily lead to a feeling by parents that they were being illegally extorted by the legal workers and familycaught “judges”).
Care and protection Issues
If there are safety allegations made against one parent, then both parents should be carefully investigated, in terms of the alleged safety issues and also in particular for basic parenting skills and resources. This recommendation is made, as frequently the complaining parent has serious parental care competency issues or psychiatric problems (certainly more often than the original safety allegations are found to be fully correct!).
Safety allegations require careful but quick evaluation of the claimed incident. In parallel with that investigation, the parenting skills and competencies of both parents should be evaluated, as allegations are often made by inadequate parents. If the investigation of allegations blinds the custody evaluator to the basic parental skills issues, then it is easy for the reporting process to be totally derailed.
Psychologist’s Presentation of Conclusions
Any conclusions must be stated un-ambiguously and in a way that the facts and methods on which they are based can be identified.
Are the deficiencies in the psych report important?
Why are they important?
“judges” only have legal training and may easily misunderstand or misuse psychologist reports.
Generally the critique should lead to:
Letter to psychologist
Strategy – do you want to challenge the psychologist in familycaught without warning?
If so, remember that ambush usually isn’t well regarded by “judges”.
It is usually more constructive, to draw all parties attention to what you see as the deficiencies and give them the best possible opportunity to rectify these defects.
If you distrust them, then you may be giving them the opportunity to bolster their dishonesty….
Politely identifying the deficiencies that you believe that you have identified, possibly providing alternative information if the errors would be simple to rectify.
Notice to admit facts
– must be addressed to the other party
to bring out and handle these issues in familycaught.
#1 Accountability and Availability of Information for Review
Familycaught severely restricts ability of parties to get review or critique of psychologist reports. In most cases, a full second opinion would be a waste of time that delays final conclusion and wouldn’t improve the outcomes anyway.
Although a less reliable approach, a simple critique is usually sufficient to assist in cross-examination of the psychologist and doesn’t delay completion of the hearing.
Recordings and notes from all interviews should be deposited in the familycaught file, to allow the conditions of the interview to be checked. These records should be of best practical quality ie video in preference to voice recording alone, as this more faithfully record the situation of the interview. The additional cost is insignificant, compared to the greater evidential value and reliability. To not make these recordings available, looks like an act of bad faith as well as being an admission of lack of professional skill. [Familycaught practice note sets sub-professional standards in this respect.]
#2 Parental Alienation?
If one parent desires to sabotage the other parent’s relationship with the child, then (unless there is hard evidence to support their concerns), the psychiatric health of this parent appears hazardous towards good parenting and protection of the child(ren). This is a problem that, to protect the child, needs to be investigated.
Presumably, they had a child together because they believed that the other parent would be good at rearing children. Have they changed their mind, for reasons relating to the child, or due to personal animosity relating to unmet expectations relating to the intimate relationship? Instability of attitudes does not bode well for caring reliably for children and giving them security.
I am not advocating the frequent, casual reversal of custody between parents, but such a change is certainly not the disaster that “adversarial judges” make out. If you look at the reality of what is occurring to the child, then a “judge” following the “status quo” (when this is what the familycaught is willing to see ie against the real world facts!) is actually ordering a dramatic reversal of custody and access. In this situation, the real world around the child is one of sudden custody reversal, but this doesn’t show up on paper, because the familycaught dreamworld “judge” refuses to honestly note the real world situation.
If this change was as perilous as these “judges” make out, then these children would be suffering much more than what is actually happening in the real world. Particularly when there is significant ongoing access, then children are actually quite resilient through these sudden dramatic changes.
To give custody to the sabotaging parent, is placing the highest risk of damaged total parenting you could give the child.
#3 Assessing Risk
If there are unexplained gaps in the psychiatric or police records, then the possible hazards which might be hidden in these gaps must be estimated. This may be quite difficult, if the person has lead a transient lifestyle, especially if there have been name changes or any other indications of fraud or attempts to evade accountability.
Measuring of risk quickly becomes unreliable and inaccurate, if any part of the history is not available.
Invariably, safe good parents are traceable. Parents who have changed their name frequently, moved around frequently and who use multiple assumed names are often hiding inadequacies if, not illegal behaviours.
Very poor asset position compared to life history may also be a warning of psychiatric problems, in the absence of any other information. Beware of being reassured by an apparently strong asset position, as it might be the result of family gifts or criminal activity. Thus some background investigation is necessary, in particular checking the source of the funds leading to the assets.
#4 Pernitious effect of previous familycaught decisions
This paper discusses removal of children, in a perceived emergency. However, the same unwillingness of familycaught to ever admit that it has made a mistake or an error of judgement, results in bad decisions being difficult to impossible to ever reverse. This rigidity may maintain an air of mythical infallibility for the familycaught, it also degrades the upbringing that tens of thousands of NZ children receive.
It is this rigidity that makes parents extremely fearful of losing a custody hearing in familycaught, as this may then seal them into a non-custodial role forever. This realistic fear, increases the extortionate pressure onto the parents, from the “judge” and legal workers.
BURDEN OF PROOF BEGONE
The Pernicious Effect of Emergency Removal in Child Protective Proceedings