Mother of Jason reports a long history of polysubstance abuse prior to this pregnancy. She presented an extensive history of alcohol addiction and heroin dependency. She reports using heroin from the age of 15 to 27. She reports that once when she found out she was pregnant, she stopped using substances. She reports not finding out that she was pregnant until six weeks into her pregnancy.
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Once the pregnancy was identified, the mother reported the ceasing use of all substances. She denied a difficult withdrawal. She reports three in-patient treatment stays between age 17 and 27 years of age. She reported prenatal care, although she did not disclose her history of substance use or the potential risks of exposures to fetus to her pediatrician. She reported that her ex-husband (Jason’s biological father) also has a history of polysubstance abuse. She described a long history of family violence.
The mother reported refraining from substance use for the first year of Jason’s life; however, she relapsed shortly thereafter. Her addiction progressed rapidly. She reported that Jason witnessed her husband stab her when he was three years of age. She was then hospitalized for a short time; Jason stayed with his grandparents for a week. The husband returned home after his release from jail. The violence and drug use increased within Jason’s home.
At age five, Jason was again exposed to another traumatic event; he witnessed his mother shot three times in the chest by his father. When the police arrived, Jason was found sitting in his mother’s pool of blood. Jason was placed with his grandmother for several months while his mother again recuperated from her hospitalization. Jason’s father was arrested and sentenced to twenty-five years in prison. Mother reports becoming addicted to the pain medication prescribed by the doctors after her injury. Jason returned home to live with his mother and her active addiction. Jason began to miss school due to his health. He was also beginning to become difficult within the classroom setting and was often sent home early from school. He also had been left with different caretakers in his first five years of development.
Jason has an older sibling that had been living in an extended family member’s home for the first seven years of Jason’s life. This older brother, who is now a teenager, had a history of suicide attempts, truancy, history of depression, and conduct disorders. The brother returned home; however, due to his own addiction was soon placed in a long-term adolescent residential treatment center. It was during this time that the mother, once again with family intervention and therapy, gathered some sobriety time. Mother reports three years of sobriety at this interview.
One of the growing areas of forensic psychology is the evaluation of families for the purpose of family reunification, child custody disputes, and custodial arrangements.
Based on your understanding of the scenario, address the following:
- Categorize and describe the criteria used to assess and make decisions involving child custody or parental fitness.
- Analyze the guidelines developed by the APA in the year 2009 for conducting custody evaluations. Describe the purpose of these guidelines.
- Characterize some of the major challenges and issues encountered during a family evaluation process.
- Assume you are the evaluator for this case. Describe the treatment recommendations you would make after identifying family issues and problems needing to be addressed in the case of Jason.
- Jason witnesses a horrific crime. Describe the suggestions that this week’s readings suggest about children’s eyewitness testimonies of crimes.
- Explain the effects of suggestive questioning.
- Assume you are asked to perform a child custody and parental fitness evaluation. Assess and explain the factors that you might consider and the recommendations you might make in demonstrating the child’s best interest.
- Explain which assessment tools you might consider using while performing a child custody evaluation and parental fitness evaluation (or any other assessment) and justify your answers with reasoning.
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