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Family court specialist report writers; opinions and issues, K McCormick
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Family court specialist report writers; opinions and issues, K McCormick


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  • 1. Family Court Specialist Report Writers: Opinions and Issues Assessing the current practice of psychologists working in the Family Court
  • 2. Background
    • Development of updated guidelines because:
    • Changes in legislation
    • New Practice Note
    • Case law (e.g., K v. K)
  • 3. Purposes of Guidelines
    • Standardize practice/minimal standards
    • Use in training and supervision
    • Assist in communications with other professional groups (e.g., Judges about briefs, LFC regarding “wishes of children”)
    • Set expectations of how we relate within our profession (e.g., critiques)
  • 4. Process for Consultation
    • Considered questionnaire, focus groups, but decided on interviews with a smaller group because:
    • Availability of summer studentship
    • Efficiency
    • Desire to gain access to detailed reports
  • 5. Aim
    • To gather information and opinions from practicing Family Court report writers.
    • To use this information in the revision of the guidelines for specialist report writers of the New Zealand Family Courts.
  • 6. Method
    • Unstructured face-to-face and phone interviews were conducted with 14 experienced New Zealand report writers.
    • Writers were identified by Professor Fred Seymour and Dr Suzanne Blackwell.
  • 7. Participants
    • 10 x female and 4 x male
    • 11 clinical psychologists
    • 2 educational psychologists
    • 1 trained in educational psychology then re-trained in clinical psychology
    • From all over New Zealand, including Masterton, Auckland, Rotorua, Nelson, Wellington, Canterbury and Invercargill
    • Experience ranged from 3 to 28 years
  • 8. Interview Schedule
    • Questions covered:
      • Current practice, the Care of Children Act 2004 and use of the guidelines.
      • Conducting interviews.
      • Conducting observations.
      • The court hearing.
      • Critiques (second opinions).
      • Payment issues.
      • Culture.
  • 9. Data Analysis
    • Notes were taken and typed immediately after each interview.
    • Data was merged into one document.
    • Data were coded on the computer using different colours to separate each point.
    • Common issues and opinions were identified.
  • 10. Analysis of the Data
    • Three broad areas were identified, each of which contained particular issues of concern for report writers.
    • These concerned:
      • Interactions with the family.
      • Interactions with the Family Court and related practitioners.
      • Interactions with other psychologists or professionals.
  • 11.
    • Interaction Issues of the interaction
    • Interactions with the *Building rapport through interviews and Family. observations.
    • *Children’s wishes and rights.
    • *Collateral interviews: Importance of balance.
    • *Observations: Natural verses structured and psychometrics.
    • *Note taking: The juggling act.
    • *Cultural issues: the use of cultural advisors, interpreters and support during children’s interviews.
  • 12.
    • Interaction Issues of the interaction
    • Interactions with the *Interactions with Lawyer for Child: Independence Courts. from and the need for some communication.
    • *The varying standards of briefs.
    • *Variations in report structure.
    • *Judges/courts role.
  • 13.
    • Interaction Issues of the interaction
    • Interactions between *Growing a culture of respect between report Psychologists. writers.
    • *The positives and negatives of being critiqued.
    • *The education and mentoring of new report writers.
    • *Continued education and access to current literature.
  • 14. Back to the guidelines
    • The input of participants has given some useful indication of the practice of some practitioners, and of the issues of relevance to them
    • This in turn has informed the ambit and detail of the new guidelines both for Family Court assessments and critiques
    • These guidelines will be discussed in some detail in the Family Law Symposium tomorrow
  • 15. Thank You