7 Assessment in a Child Protection Context

Forensic Psychology


  1. Karen S. Budd PhD1,
  2. Mary Connell EdD, ABPP2,
  3. Jennifer R. Clark PsyD3

Published Online: 26 SEP 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781118133880.hop211007

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

How to Cite

Budd, K. S., Connell, M. and Clark, J. R. 2012. Assessment in a Child Protection Context. Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition. 11:II:7.

Author Information

  1. 1

    DePaul University, Department of Psychology, Chicago, Illinois, USA

  2. 2

    Private Practice, Fort Worth, Texas, USA

  3. 3

    Private Practice, Mexico City, Mexico

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 26 SEP 2012


Psychologists may be asked to assist the court and child welfare professionals in making informed, objective decisions regarding families in cases of child abuse and neglect. Mental health information may be requested regarding a child's emotional or psychological needs, a parent's caregiving abilities, the likelihood of successful remediation of parenting deficits, risk and protective factors relevant to making placement or visitation decisions, and whether various options reflect the child's best interest. Forensic mental health evaluations differ importantly from therapeutic evaluations and require psychologists to obtain specialized competence. Challenges include the coercive context of assessment, the dearth of appropriate assessment measures, difficulties in predicting behavior, and the absence of universally accepted standards of minimal parenting adequacy. This chapter provides an overview of the legal context, empirical foundations and limits, forensic mental health concepts and frameworks, methods of data collection, and recommended methods for communicating assessment findings in child protection evaluations. Psychologists who provide evaluations in a forensic context must approach the task with an open mind, tolerance for ambiguity, and confidence that full information enhances fair decision making.


  • abuse;
  • neglect;
  • maltreatment;
  • child protection;
  • child welfare;
  • forensic assessment;
  • child;
  • parent;
  • parenting capacity