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Children, Families and the Law

Child and Family Evaluation Service (CAFES)

The Child and Family Evaluation Service (CAFES) is a forensic service that operates as a component of the MSPP Center of Excellence for Children, Families, and the Law.

Mission Statement

Consistent with MSPP's mission to "meet the evolving mental health needs of society", the Child and Family Evaluation Service of the MSPP Center of Excellence for Children, Families, and the Law, believes that highest-quality and forensically sound psychological evaluations are of great assistance to individual children and families in situations arising at the intersection of the legal system and behavioral science. Since those situations (including but not limited to divorce, guardianship, or adoption) are a relatively common occurrence in our society, on a larger scale we believe that the expertise provided by CAFES can support positive development and interests of children as families undergo change, and so benefits individuals, families and society as a whole.

Who We Serve

CAFES offers forensic and clinical mental health expertise for courts, attorneys, state protection agencies and others who are involved in court, mediation, or other contexts in which the resolution of disputes would be assisted by forensically sound behavioral health evaluation and recommendations.

Who Might Need Our Services

  • Attorneys who represent clients in litigation or mediation
  • Judges
  • Mediators
  • Parents who have been court-ordered to participate in evaluations related to child custody proceedings
  • Individuals who have been court-ordered to participate in classes focusing upon parenting, co-parenting, etc.

What We Do

  • CAFES provides forensic psychological evaluations that are prepared by psychologists and/or post-doctoral psychology fellows under the close supervision of highly qualified and experienced doctoral-level professionals. Please click here for an explanation of our reports.
  • We can address a wide variety of questions that may be posed by courts, attorneys, or others, regarding children and families going through stressful, challenging or disputed circumstances.
  • In most circumstances, the service is offered at a fixed, flat fee, which is unique feature of our program and services. Please click here for more details about payment and fees.
  • CAFES provides state of the art, comprehensive mental health expertise in situations which arise at the intersection of the family, the legal system, and the mental health professions. CAFES has an unsurpassed ability to provide timely "state of the art" forensic evaluations and consultations due to the MSPP staff affiliated with CAFES and the professional resources associated with MSPP.

Additional Services

  • Consultation Service for any G.A.L or Custody Evaluator or Parent Coordinator: We offer the services of Dr. Robin Deutsch, Dr. Robert Kinscherff, and Judge Harms (Ret.) as expert consultants.
  • High Conflict Parent Education Groups: We offer assistance with families in high conflict whose reliance upon litigation consumes vastly disproportionate court time and resources. The goal of our program is to improve outcomes for children by helping parents learn to minimize conflict and to co-parent more effectively. CAFES offers a 9 week, 27 hour program aimed specifically at these parents. In Massachusetts, every divorcing couple must attend a state-certified "Parenting Program." Various community mental health agencies offer these on a sliding fee basis throughout the Commonwealth. The CAFES program is a program directed specifically at couples that are locked in high-conflict and who tend not to stabilize with standard parenting programs. The cost is $950 per person. Joint attendance by both parents is essential to success and so is mandatory.
  • New Child Project (classes for new and expecting parents): These classes are offered in conjunction with the Freedman Center of MSPP.

The Leadership Team

Robin Deutsch, PhD, and Robert Kinscherff, PhD and JD, are two nationally renowned psychologists. They were early participants in the development of the Children and the Law Program at Judge Baker Children's Center and then the Massachusetts General Hospital. The Honorable Christina Harms (Ret.) is a retired and highly respected Family and Probate Court Judge with 23 years of experience who manages the day to day operations of CAFES and provides a perspective informed by more than two decades on the bench.

Our Expertise

Our expertise includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Child abuse and neglect
  • Mental illness and/or substance abuse and impact upon parenting
  • Divorce and visitation disputes
  • Visitation Resistance
  • Spousal and intimate partner violence
  • Foster care, permanency planning and adoption
  • Factitious Disorder by Proxy
  • Parent Coordination in on-going post-divorce conflict
  • Parental relocation/removal during or following divorce
  • Juvenile delinquency and Youthful Offender matters, including homicide
  • Juvenile sexual offender cases
  • Forensic psychological and neuropsychological testing/assessment in the context of legal proceedings
  • Assessment of the impact of exposure to adverse/traumatizing events
  • School related issues and conflicts, including threat assessment

Cases will be accepted starting in the summer of 2013, and work on the first cases will commence on or about September 1, 2013.

Explanation of Reports:

The type of investigation and evaluation, ultimately resulting in a written report, that CAFES offers, is most commonly thought of and referred to in Massachusetts as a "G.A.L. report", and in other states as a "custody evaluation". Strictly speaking, in Massachusetts a G.A.L. (Guardian Ad Litem) is a mental health or legal professional who is appointed by a court (as evidenced by a written appointment document that is signed by a judge).

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CAFES will make top-quality G.A.L.-type or custody evaluation reports available to all families at a reasonable cost, in a short enough time frame to truly assist children and families in crisis or turmoil. We offer two types of fixed-fee evaluation reports. The first, at cost of $7,500, is a traditional G.A.L. type of evaluation and report. The second, at cost of $5,000, is a "brief focused" evaluation report. Click here for a description of a "brief focused" evaluation.

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Updated 7/14/14

The Center of Excellence for Children, Families and the Law

Contact Us
Honorable Christina Harms (Ret.), Director, Child and Family Evaluation Service (CAFES)
617-323-6662 x532
Fax: 617-323-6969

1208 VFW Parkway
3rd Floor
West Roxbury, MA 02132

Our program sponsors four post-doctoral fellowships in forensic psychology. Find out more.

Christina Harms

Honorable Christina Harms (Ret.), BA, JD

Make a payment for Consultation Service for any G.A.L or Custody Evaluator or Parent Coordinator

Enter payment amount below (Example: 20.00) and click on "Pay Now" button:

Note: Check out is through PayPal, however you do not need a PayPal account to make a payment. Simply select the "Pay with a debit or credit card, or Bill Me Later" option.

Make a payment for a High Conflict Parenting Education Class

Enter payment amount below (Example: 20.00) and click on "Pay Now" button:

Note: Check out is through PayPal, however you do not need a PayPal account to make a payment. Simply select the "Pay with a debit or credit card, or Bill Me Later" option.

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