Forensic Services

In the role of Forensic Psychologist, Dr. Freedman applies psychological science to issues relating to the legal system. Dr. Freedman has performed hundreds of forensic evaluations and is a recognized resource among attorneys, school systems, State, Federal and Tribal courts, State and County agencies and correctional facilities. Dr. Freedman has been qualified as an expert witness dozens of times in multiple venues. He is comfortable working with both
prosecution and defense attorneys. He has special interests in family law, Native American culture and forensic assessment of those with developmental disabilities. “Forensic” mental health evaluations are typically court ordered and used in a legal or adversarial process. They are prepared in accordance with Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Psychology – http://www.apa.org/practice/guidelines/forensic-psychology.aspx.

Areas of Forensic Specialization

Family and Custody

Evaluations of parental capacity are most commonly requested by case workers from the Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) or the Washington State Attorney General’s office. Such evaluations provide opinions to the court to assist in decision making around a person’s parental capacity and the best psychological interests of their child. Parents referred for such evaluations have often been alleged to have abused, abandoned or neglected their children or to have mental health and/or substance use issues which may have impaired their parental capacity.

Parenting capacity evaluations follow RCW 13.34, Juvenile Court Act – Dependency and Termination of Parent-Child Relationship, specifically 13.34.180 subsection 1 and 13.34. 190 subsection 1b. Such evaluations provide estimates of the likelihood for conditions to be remedied so that the child can be returned to the parent and the parent’s ability to address parental deficiencies within the near future. Treatment recommendations or other “necessary services” to facilitate return of the examinee’s child are usually provided. The parent’s ability to benefit from such services is also estimated. Finally, if appropriate, opinions regarding the child’s best psychological interests are provided to assist the court.
Frequently, Dr. Freedman is asked to provide second opinion parental capacity evaluations. Such evaluations may be helpful to provide information to the court when conditions have changed or the initial evaluation provided insufficient or inaccurate information.

Parental capacity evaluations usually begin with an interview using a semi-structured format to collect information from the parent regarding their own history and their orientation to parenting. Dr. Freedman also uses a semi-structured interview to collect information about the parent’s current mental health function. Frequently Dr. Freedman will administer empirically validated parent related tests and will observe the parent and child together. Home visits are sometimes included as well. When there are questions regarding the effect of emotional or intellectual function on parenting capacity, empirically derived tests of function in these areas may be administered.

When conducting parental capacity evaluations Dr. Freedman reviews multiple forms of written documentation including pleadings and court orders, declarations or other written documentation from the parties or their advocates, written input from collateral sources, criminal or law enforcement history, school records, mental or physical health records, previous psychological or substance abuse evaluations and child protective service records among others. Dr. Freedman conducts interviews with collateral sources who know or have worked with the parent and the child, including family members, mental health providers, physicians, teachers, athletic coaches and religious leaders among others.
For further information on the ethics and practice of parental capacity evlauations please review the Guidelines for Psychological Evaluations in Child Protection Matters provided by the American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org/practice/guidelines/child-protection.pdf

The purpose of a child custody evaluation is to assist the court in determining the best interests of children involved in custody disputes and to assist in developing a parenting plan consistent with the requirements of RCW 26.09.184, 26.09.187, 26.09.191, and 26.09.220. Opinions also assist the court in decision making regarding modification of an existing parenting plan (RCW 26.09.260), relocation (RCW 26.09.520) or other specific issues
Child custody evaluations are defined as “parenting evaluations” in Washington State as described in WAC 246-924-445. Such evaluations include a comparative analysis of the relative strength, nature, and stability of the child’s relationship with each parent, the history or parenting, each parent’s past and potential ability to perform parenting functions and the emotional needs and developmental level of the child. Other factors related to the child’s best interest and the ability if each parent to meet those interests are also assessed. Such factors include the child’s relationship with others, their involvement in activities or school and physical surroundings, the wishes of the parents or of a child who is sufficiently mature to express reasoned and independent preferences and each parent’s employment schedule. Allegations of substance abuse, mental illness, restrictive gatekeeping behaviors, child alienation, intimate partner violence as well as abusive or neglectful parenting are also assessed.
Child custody evaluations involve extensive interviews with each parent using structured and semi-structured protocols. Information related to each parent’s personal history, orientation to and history of parenting, current emotional function, and custodial preferences is collected over a series of interviews. If appropriate, Dr. Freedman administers empirically validated parent related tests and will schedule home visits at each parents’ home during their custodial time. When there are questions regarding the effect of emotional or intellectual function on parenting capacity, empirically derived tests of function in these areas may be administered.

When conducting child custody evaluations Dr. Freedman reviews multiple forms of written documentation including pleadings and court orders, declarations or other written documentation from the parties or their advocates, written input from collateral sources, criminal or law enforcement history, school records, mental or physical health records, previous psychological or substance abuse evaluations and child protective service records among others. Dr. Freedman conducts interviews with each child, often on multiple occasions and may administered additional psychological testing if there are specific child related issues which require further assessment to form opinions regarding the child’s best interest. Dr. Freedman also conducts interviews with collateral sources who know or have worked with each parent and the children, including family members, mental health providers, physicians, teachers, athletic coaches and religious leaders among others. The spouses or partners of parents are also interviewed. Depending on their level of involvement with the children, parents’ spouses or partners may also be asked to participate in further assessment or psychological testing.
For further information on the ethics and methodology of Child Custody Evaluations please see the Guidelines for Child Custody Evaluations in Family Law Proceedings published by the American Psychological Association: https://www.apa.org/practice/guidelines/child-custody.pdf and the Model Standards of Practice for Child Custody Evaluations published by the Association of Family and Consiliation Courts: http://www.afccnet.org/Portals/0/ModelStdsChildCustodyEvalSept2006.pdf

An individual involved in a custodial dispute may be ordered by the court to undergo a forensic mental health evaluation. This type of evaluation is appropriate when a full custody evaluation involving a comparative analysis of both parents is unnecessary. As described in WAC 246-924-467, such an evaluation may assess a number of factors which could impact a custody litigant’s parenting ability. Commonly evaluated are substance abuse, psychological function, intimate partner violence, sexual or physical abuse of a child, restrictive gatekeeping behaviors or child alienation. As in any other forensic evaluations, Dr. Freedman is only able to form opinions and testify regarding issues which he has directly evaluated.

Such evaluations involve an interviews using a semi-structured protocol. Information related to the parent’s personal history, orientation to and history of parenting and current emotional function is collected. If appropriate, Dr. Freedman administers empirically validated parent related tests and will observe the child with the parent. If appropriate a home visit during the parent’s custodial time will also be scheduled. When there are questions regarding the effect of emotional or intellectual function on parenting capacity, empirically derived tests of function in these areas may be administered.

When conducting a focused evaluation of a custody litigant Dr. Freedman reviews multiple forms of written documentation including pleadings and court orders, declarations or other written documentation from the parties or their advocates, written input from collateral sources, criminal or law enforcement history, school records, mental or physical health records, previous psychological or substance abuse evaluations and child protective service records among others. Dr. Freedman conducts interviews with collateral sources who know or have worked with the parent and the child, including family members, mental health providers, physicians, teachers, athletic coaches and religious leaders among others.

Sometimes the court requests psychological or parenting related evaluations to determine if a grandparent or other family relation is capable of safely caring for a child. Specific questions related to the examinee’s mental health stability or parenting skills may be raised. Commonly evaluated are substance abuse, psychological function, intimate partner violence or risk of sexual or physical abuse of a child. As in any other forensic evaluations, Dr. Freedman is only able to form opinions and testify regarding issues which he has directly evaluated.

These types of evaluations involve interviews using a semi-structured protocol. Information related to the parent’s personal history, orientation to and history of parenting and current emotional function is collected. If appropriate, Dr. Freedman administers empirically validated parent related tests and will observe the child with the grandparent or family member. An observation of the grandparent or family member together with the child may also be conducted. When there are questions regarding the effect of emotional or intellectual function on parenting capacity or emotional stability, empirically derived tests of function in these areas may be administered.

When conducting a parenting related evaluation of a grandparent or family member Dr. Freedman reviews multiple forms of written documentation including pleadings and court orders, declarations or other written documentation from the parties or their advocates, written input from collateral sources, criminal or law enforcement history, school records, mental or physical health records, previous psychological or substance abuse evaluations and child protective service records among others. Dr. Freedman will conduct interviews with collateral sources who know or have worked with the examinee, including family members, mental health providers, physicians, teachers, athletic coaches and religious leaders among others.

Questions may be raised about the readiness or suitability of an adoptive parent or home. Evaluations are requested to provide information to a licensing entity regarding the readiness or suitability of parent to serve as a foster or adoptive home. At times such evaluations consider the specific needs of a particular child and the capacity of the parent to meet that child’s needs. As in any other forensic evaluations, Dr. Freedman is only able to form opinions and testify regarding issues which he has directly evaluated.

Such evaluations involve interviews using a semi-structured protocol. Information related to the parent’s personal history, orientation to and history of parenting and current emotional function is collected. If appropriate, Dr. Freedman administers empirically validated parent related tests and may conduct a home visit. When there are questions regarding the effect of emotional or intellectual function on parenting capacity or emotional stability, empirically derived tests of function in these areas may be administered.

When conducting an assessment of the suitability or readiness of an adoptive home Dr. Freedman reviews multiple forms of written documentation including pleadings and court orders, declarations or other written documentation, written input from collateral sources, criminal or law enforcement history, school records, mental or physical health records, previous psychological or substance abuse evaluations and child protective service records among others. Dr. Freedman will conduct interviews with collateral sources who know or have worked with the examinee, including family members, mental health providers, physicians, teachers, athletic coaches and religious leaders among others.

Juvenile

Dr. Freedman is frequently consulted by schools, businesses and institutions to assess the potential risk an individual may pose to themselves or others. Evaluation of risk involves extensive interviews with the examinee and collateral sources, review of collateral records, psychological testing and use of forensic assessment tools which estimate risk.

Evaluation of competency to stand trial is based on the two-part test for competency in Washington State: 1) whether the defendant understands the nature of the charges and 2) whether the defendant is capable of assisting in his or her defense. At times it is necessary to assess other forms or competency at issue in the criminal legal process including the competence to plead guilty, waive counsel, or to refuse the insanity defense.

Evaluation of trial competency involves a structured interview with the examinee and administration of forensic assessment instruments that assess competency. Interviews with the examinee’s attorney or others who know the examinee may also be used. Assessment of other factors related to competency including cognitive capacity, mental health problems or malingering may require administration of further empirically derived psychological test measures.

Adult