I work closely with the cabinet and court systems. At times it can be difficult to navigate the process but with experience and guidance from others you can protect yourself legally, ethically, and still be an advocate for your client.
This information is not to replace anything an attorney or legal consultation suggests; this information is for practicing clinicians.
- Most therapist at some point are involved with child protective services or family court/custody.
- You are not alone. Reach out the clinical supervisors and trusted and ethically sound colleagues for support. You can also call your national association for consultation (AAMFT, ACA, APA) or your malpractice insurance.
- Review your Code of Ethics- All disciplines are different so be sure you are working within your guidelines.
- Keep your opinion out of it and report behavioral observations/assessments.
- Know your role. You are not the investigator, judge, or attorney, or a custody evaluator so stay in your lane. You can advocate for your client within your role. When you cross boundaries you open yourself up for legal issues!
- Social workers and attorneys are not friends. They are legal professionals collecting data for their case. Check your state regs on being required to release information during an investigator with CPS. Otherwise, a release is needed. This is something I obtain from the beginning of services and inform my client if there is an open case, I prefer open communication with the social worker. Up to this point, that has not been an issue. I include that as part of the way I practice for informed treatment. Every clinician has preferences, but obtaining a thorough case history, especially when working with children and parents is important. Fortunately, most of the time the social worker is the referrer and I obtain a history then, but this is not always the case.
- If you are subpoenaed let your employer know, reach out for legal consultation, and you are able to contact the attorney that subpoenaed you in order to find out what information is being requested from your testimony. When you are testifying if you are not able to answer something due to your code of ethics you are allowed to say so.
I hope these a few tips are helpful for you if you find yourself in a situation that can sometimes be scary. Know that you were not alone in this process and to reach out for support!