Attachment for child services and Courts
AFS Ltd can provide several services designed to assist families and family courts:
Personal / Clinical Attachment Strategy Evaluations
Parent Attachment Assessments
Child Attachment Assessments
Parent-Child Attachment Assessments
Parenting Time Supervision and Assessment
Parental Coaching in Attachment Development
Expert Witness Reporting under Part 25
Global Assessments leading to Family Functional Formulations
Brief Focused Assessments
Parental awareness and engagement service
Child / Parent Reunification Services
Residential Reunification Program
Personal / Clinical Attachment Strategy Evaluations; Parent Attachment Assessments;
Child Attachment Assessments; Parent–Child Assessments; Family Assessments
We all have attachment strategies, adults and children alike. How we interact with others largely rests on how our past and present shape our internal and external information processes. This is especially relevant in our family, and other close, personal relationships but can extend into how we conduct ourselves and may be perceived in other areas of functioning.
AFS Ltd can apply a series of validated and accurate clinical attachment assessments that evaluate the attachment functioning of children, adults, parent/child relationships, and families, with signposting towards the right kind of assistance for resolving any issues identified.
Parenting Time Supervision, Assistance and Assessment
Dependent on location and practicality, we can arrange periods of time where we supply an overseer to parental contact with a child. We’d need to know in advance the purpose of supervision i.e. assist, observe, assess attachment, report etc.
Parents using this service as a means of demonstrating to court their ability to safe parent should bear in mind the guidance of Practice Direction 27A, stating that supervised contact reports would not normally be expected to be included in court Bundles. Prior directions may be needed, or permission for admission may need to be sought from the court for inclusion in the Bundle.
Parental Teaching/Coaching in Attachment Development
Most mental health issues and our resilience to them as adults stem from our childhoods and the care we received. This service is designed to promote parents’ and carers’ ability to achieve secure attachments with their children. We can teach small groups or coach individual parents. This short but intensive course covers neurobiological, cognitive, affective, and practical approaches towards promoting care environments likely to provide children the immense developmental benefits of optimal attachment outcomes within themselves, and between themselves and their parents, and the outside world.
Expert Witness Reporting under Part 25 Family Procedure Rules
Global Assessments leading to Family Functional Formulations
AFS can undertake independent assessments as Single Joint Experts instructed by the family court in accordance with Part 25 of the Family Procedure Rules, where expert evidence is necessary to assist the court resolve a case.
A full Global Assessment involves a clinical and forensic assessment of child attachment and family dynamics before preparation of a Family Functional Formulation (FFF) and Report for court:
– clinical Interview, blind coded to eliminate bias
– investigation of the family dynamics
– period of assessment of parental awareness and engagement
– meetings with the child alone and with parents (and perhaps significant others)
– preparation of a Family Functional Formulation, providing recommendations for resolution of issue
– provision of report to the parties and the court
– time from instruction to completion is anticipated at 10 weeks maximum but can be as little as 6-7 weeks
Accurate Family Functional Formulations are vital to prescribing correct therapeutic routing for each member of the family.
Assessments can include our use of interviews and technology to provide best opinion on clinical and forensic safety for children.
Brief Focused Assessments (BFAs)
Litigants and family courts often face considerable pressures when alleging, facing and adjudicating specific issues that require investigation. AFS can use evidentiary investigations and technology not available within the scarce resources of the court system. Our processes can provide reliable information and opinion to family courts over specific issues that otherwise may severely disrupt case management, and add several months or years of delay to proceedings. BFAs can keep cases on track.
BFA models presume that in some cases there are discrete issues, limited in scope, that do not require a comprehensive family evaluation. BFAs typically address different types of issues and phases of a family dispute and generally utilize a more descriptive approach versus the analytic mode used in conducting a more global family assessment. A BFA may be instructed to provide opinion on specific issues such as a child/parent attachment assessment, or risk analysis such as exploring allegations of domestic violence, and child abuse and maltreatment. It may usefully assist a court to expedite fresh cases with adjudication based on what is initially alleged or apparent, before delays and extension of stressful litigation exacerbates tensions, and potentially leads to more issues manifesting for parents and children.
Brief Focused Assessments (BFAs) are an evolving and increasingly practiced model of issue-specific assessment used in a multitude of family court settings in other competent jurisdictions. When used appropriately, BFAs are a legitimate, parsimonious, and sufficient (i.e. stand-alone) process. A BFA is designed to help better inform specific aspects of judicial decision-making because the judicial officer narrowly defines the issues to be assessed. These narrowly defined issues can be assessed at different stages in the legal process, whenever the judge requests a focused assessment to assist in decision-making.
BFA’s could be directed where the issues to be addressed are specific and require swift investigation, interviews, evidentiary assessment and reporting. It may be that children and families in court processes are better served if the qualifications, skills, resources and timeline of the BFA assessor are an improvement on what may be the constraints of other agencies. A BFA can enable parties and a judge to see a short, evidence based, quality report, backed by rigorous testing with established technology, within a short timeframe, that the family court simply does not normally have the capacity to match. The report can include an integrity analysis of evidence and persons subject to the assessment.
However, whilst it is important to bear in mind that a BFA is an inexpensive means of swiftly addressing short term issues that may otherwise lengthen litigation to all-round detriment, they must not be used where a comprehensive Global Assessment and Family Functional Formulation is necessary to address the medium to long term concerns of the court. Such practice could result in a two-tiered system in which low income clients routinely receive less comprehensive services than those who can afford to pay for more, building an injustice into the very legal system established to serve all families equally.
Parental awareness and engagement service
This service provides an assessment of parents’ ability to absorb and apply information to improve the two-way attachment strategies between themselves and their children. This service normally consists of a short number of weeks following an assessment interview guiding a bespoke plan, issued remotely via online conference facility such as Zoom. It provides parents the opportunity of an individual safe space for engagement in assessment. For child services and courts, it provides a monitored, in vivo assessment across a span of time that gives parents a realistic chance of assimilating new information and applying it to their family functioning. This service can be provided separately or as part of a Global Assessment. This service is not therapy: it sits within an assessment framework that can that can be made bespoke to each parent.
Screening and Specific Issue Testing
Screening and specific issue testing can provide scientific-grade evidence to a legal process with a reliability that significantly exceeds the balance of probabilities test. We can deploy technology used by several government and private security, banking, anti-terrorist, police and border agencies to reliably evaluate an individual’s prior conduct and integrity, and efficiently allocate service resources.
AFS can design and administer general or specific personal evaluation screening services covering all types of issues. The advantage of screening is that a person’s history can be reliably tested on several relevant, general issues, in one short sitting. Eye Detect screening has an accuracy rate of over 90%.
Specific Issue testing focuses on one concern, such as a particular incident alleged i.e. applicable where the court is dealing with single instance allegations, or a number of single allegations. The accuracy rate of specific issue testing is over 90%, beyond the 50% ‘balance of probabilities test’ burden of proof used in family courts.
Specific Issue testing can be done where there is a need to evaluate particular allegations or suspicions, or where screening raises one or more specific concerns suggesting further exploration is necessary. Examples could be testing allegations of specific instances of domestic violence, all types of child maltreatment, assault, and drug use. There would be one specific issue test for each alleged incident.
Some misconducts are a behavioural pattern. Where this is alleged or considered prudent to explore, testing should be done as part of a wider Brief Focused Assessment, where incidental and background evidence can be collated and evaluated.
Testing can be administered by consent of an individual as part of a court process. Where it is not directed by the court i.e. as part of responding to allegations, the court’s permission will be required for any test results to be admitted at court.
Child/Parent Reunification Programs
The primary function of this service is to efficiently promote and restore attachment between a separated parent and child. AFS can provide a range of child/parent reunification programs upon assessment to suit the needs of children and parents. AFS’s program is a child-specific and optimal adaptation to similar models commonly applied in the US and Canada. AFS has supported and directly implemented interventions that successfully gave effect to the UK family court’s intentions in these delicate situations, even in what the court considered the extreme cases.
Specialists involved with assisting children via this service are best first informed via a qualified Family Functional Formulation or at least a Brief Family Assessment.
The service is generally set up through close management, in conjunction with other court professionals, with requisite findings and directions from a consistent judge. The sooner this stage of resolution is applied, the better for the child and family. Parents, advocates and courts are pressed to consider urgently instructing under Part 25 early where children are presenting with resist/reject/refuse behaviours.
The service has a broad range of applications. It is especially effective where other options are counter-indicated. These may include where children are at risk of, or actually presenting with, resist/reject/refuse conditions and behaviours. The service is scalable, capable of handling moderate to severe resist/reject/refuse behaviors, and is particularly appropriate where the situation has been ongoing for some time.
Where resist/reject/refuse behaviours appear severely embedded, and children are provided no assistance in reunification, court directions for reunification without our standard of assistance for children are less likely to be effective. Failed reunifications have caused many judges to be reluctant in subsequently directing them unless they are satisfied the process will be adequately administered by proven specialists in this difficult field, able to adjust their service in accordance with the level of influences upon, and presentation in, each child. The tragedy of failed outcomes seems to be that subsequent interventions are not attempted.