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Children, Families and the Law

Child and Family Evaluation Service (CAFES)

The Child and Family Evaluation Service (CAFES) is a newly created entity within MSPP, operating under the umbrella 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 top-quality, scientifically sound psychological evaluations are of great assistance to individual children and families in situations which arise at the intersection of the legal system and mental health professions. And since those situations (divorce, guardianship, adoption, etc.) are a relatively common occurrence in our society, on a larger scale we believe that such expertise can make the process of divorce and family disruption less damaging, and suggest proven pathways for healing, thus benefitting society as a whole.

Who We Serve

CAFES offers outstanding mental health expertise for families and/or children and adolescents involved in legal proceedings (whether in court, in mediation, or in other contexts) where a dispute is presented and its best resolution would be assisted with mental health evaluation and recommendations. CAFES will work with courts and judges, with attorneys representing individuals, and with child welfare agencies.

Who Might Need Our Services

  1. attorneys who represent clients in litigation or mediation
  2. judges
  3. mediators
  4. individuals who have been strongly urged (or ordered) by a court to take a course of education in topics such as parenting, co-parenting, etc.

What We Do

  • CAFES will provide written psychological evaluations, prepared by psychologists and 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 will be 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 can provide 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. With the resources of MSPP as a preeminent academic institution in psychology, CAFES has an unsurpassed ability to provide timely state of the art evaluations and consultations.

Additional Services

  • Consultation Service for any G.A.L or Custody Evaluator or Parent Coordinator: We offer the services of Dr. Deutsch, Dr. Kinscherff, and Judge Harms, as expert consultants.
  • High Conflict Parent Education Groups: We offer assistance with the well-recognized problem of a relatively small number of families in litigation who consume a vastly disproportionate amount of the court's time. CAFES now offers a program to which attorneys could refer, and courts could mandate 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 will shortly have a second tier program directed specifically at couples that are locked in high-conflict (the so-called "frequent fliers" of the courthouses across the state and the nation) who tend not to stabilize with the standard parenting program. The cost is $950 per person, and joint attendance by both parents is mandatory.
  • New Child Project (classes for expecting parents): These classes will be 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 founding and development of the Children and the Law Program at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Their combined reputation and expertise is unparalleled. The Honorable Christina Harms (Ret.) is a recently-retired and highly respected Family and Probate Court Judge with 23 years of experience, who manages the day to day operations of CAFES.

Our Expertise

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

  • Child abuse and neglect
  • Mental illness
  • Divorce and visitation disputes Parental alienation
  • Domestic Violence
  • Foster care, permanency planning and adoption
  • Juvenile sex offenses
  • Munchausen by Proxy
  • On-going post-divorce disputes
  • Parent Coordination
  • Parenting Evaluations and Consultations
  • Psychological and neuro-psychological testing in the context of legal proceedings
  • Relocation/removal issues
  • School related issues and conflicts
  • Sexual abuse allegations arising in the context of high conflict divorce
  • Termination of Parental Rights
  • Trauma and its long term impact on children

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" (or a "G.A.L.–type report"), and in other states as a "custody evaluation". These reports have been in common use for many decades, and while they may have somewhat different names in different states, they are well recognized. Strictly speaking in Massachusetts a G.A.L. (Guardian Ad Litem) is a person (generally with mental health training) who is appointed by a court (as evidenced by a written appointment document that is signed by a judge). If two parties are not in litigation (for example, they might be in mediation) the evaluator is not strictly a G.A.L. (thus the term "G.A.L.-type" reports), but the process and product are essentially the same.

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 11/5/13

The Center of Excellence for Children, Families and the Law


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

Location
1208 VFW Parkway
3rd Floor
West Roxbury, MA 02132
Directions

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

Christina Harms

Honorable Christina Harms (Ret.), BA, JD

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