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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1860/658

Title: The quality of forensic mental health assessments of juvenile offenders: an empirical investigation
Authors: Sanschagrin, Kimberly A.
Keywords: Clinical psychology;Juvenile delinquents -- Rehabilitation;Mentally ill offenders
Issue Date: 30-Jan-2006
Abstract: Mental health professionals have long been involved in the forensic mental health assessment of adult and juvenile offenders. Despite their extensive contribution of services in forensic settings, researchers and practitioners have focused their attention on the quality of services for juvenile offenders to a much lesser extent than they have adult offenders. With the numbers of adolescents entering the juvenile system over the last fifteen years increasing, mental health professionals have been called upon to address issues concerning juveniles. Although there is no empirically validated “gold standard” for conducting forensic mental health assessments, Heilbrun (2001) has proposed a model for the practice of forensic mental health assessment based on evidence from empirical, ethical, legal, and practice areas. This study examined the content and quality of forensic mental health assessments of juvenile offenders in a sample of 180 psychological evaluations requested by juvenile courts in the Philadelphia metropolitan area using an instrument created by this author and based upon Heilbrun’s proposed model (2001). This study evaluated differences in the overall quality and content of these evaluations based upon the type of mental health professional conducting the evaluation. Further, this study also investigated the overall quality and content of forensic mental health evaluations, measuring the disparity between elements perceived to be important in forensic mental health evaluation and the actual practice of mental health professionals. Results reflected a continuing disparity between aspirational and actual report content. Only 6.1% of reports identified the legal question being addressed and only 3.4% of the reports included complete information about notification of purpose and limits of confidentiality. Limited clinical information was typically provided, and psychological testing was rarely conducted. There was no significant difference in the overall quality of forensic mental health assessments across disciplines. Further, the overall quality of forensic mental health assessments differed significantly according to the referral source, with reports requested by judges significantly better in quality than those requested by other referral sources (or without referral source specified). Implications of these findings for research, practice, and policy are discussed.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1860/658
Appears in Collections:Drexel Theses and Dissertations

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